Wilma’s ‘Antigone’ is an ardent, theatrical feat

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Bold sound, stark color and shapes, active lighting, and mesmerizing movement woven together by a magnificent ensemble directed, cultivated and choreographed by Theodoros Terzopoulos draws invigorating attention to the timeless tragedy, “Antigone,” the last in the three Theban plays written by Sophocles. The story, already in progress as the audience enters, follows upon Antigone’s (Jennifer Kidwell) brothers, Polyneices and Eteocles, having killed each other in battle for control of Thebes. Her parents, Queen Jocasta and King Oedipus are dead, leaving her and her sister, Ismene. Creon (Antonis Miriagos), uncle to Antigone, has ascended the throne, declared Polyneices a traitor, and decrees that he shall not be given burial. Antigone, who feels answerable to a higher law in regards to her brother, openly defies Creon, even upon penalty of death, in a heroic act of civil disobedience.
Part of the Attis Theatre’s internationally reaching Unburied Bodies project, this pioneering production plumbs depths of human sorrow and suffering through rigorous physicality, vocal intensity and form. The conflict between, and within the characters, is made absolutely visceral through percussive open mouth breathing, sculpted facial expressions, upward looking eyes illuminated at otherworldly angles, and the overall surreal corporeality of these supremely well trained actors. Jennifer Kidwell releases Antigone’s pain, rage and defiance with ferocious vocality, and sweet sorrowful song. The struggle between her and Miriagos’s maddening Creon is powerfully composed; riveting, as is Creon’s surrender to Fate. Sarah Gliko’s portrayal of Ismene is a good juxtaposition to Antigone, and Brian Ratcliffe’s delivery of Haemon’s impassioned plea to his father, Creon, echoes sadness, portent and loss. Paolo Musio’s masterful talent of many voices as the Leader of Chorus pervades the play with ominous overtones, while Ed Swidey’s Narrator also evokes a sense of foreboding.
Ancient Greek (English supertitles are provided), paired with English from Marianne McDonald’s English translation, lends a dark rhythmic feeling, especially as resonantly spoken by the powerhouse Chorus (Ross Beschler, Stathis Grapsas, Justin Jain, Jered McLenigan and Steven Rishard), who appear to move as one excellently coordinated body; like a well oiled human machine.
The set (Terzopoulos) is defined by geometrical shapes, augmented by black, white, gray, bright red and a touches of flaming gold upon the stage, and accompanied by a distinct, lively lighting design (Terzopoulos). Costumes (Terzopoulos) are a mixture of distressed modern clothing and textured flowing fabric in the colors of the set. Music by composer Panayotis Velianitis flows through the show in conjunction with the chorus adding to the overall etherealness and perhaps a touch of Olympus.
“Antigone” premiered roughly around 440 BC, yet the themes of hubris, loyalty, tyranny and injustice remain, tragically, contemporary, and as performed at The Wilma are palpably poignant.
IF YOU GO: Remaining performances through Nov. 8 at The Wilma Theater, 265 South Broad St., Phila. For information call 215-546-7824, or visit https://www.wilmatheater.org.

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