Portland Center Stage
1111 S.W. Broadway
Feb. 20-Mar.18, 7 p.m. and 8 p.m.
$10-15 general admission
Falling into a play on a Saturday night can feel jolting to the humdrum existence of your life as a connoisseur of mediocrity. But, this is something worth not only the 10 bucks to see it, but also the damage it may do to your conscience. The comfortable position on the couch you were planning on getting back into after the play may not seem so pleasing afterwards. Yes, after this, you may just want to go out and see another play.
The factor that is often lost in readings is the set. And in this modern interpretation of “Antigone,” written by acclaimed director from Los Angeles Nancy Keystone, a crude battle of morals (those of one woman vs. those of one man) surrounding the burial of one human being, the set is just as sanctified as the dynamic actors themselves.
Sitting in what seems like a mini-cathedral is a dark stage full of eye-caching props and art, images that you could consider pondering for the next 90 minutes, and leave satisfied. Take the walls for example. Consisting of huge chalkboards bordered with greek letters and shiny apples everywhere, it makes you wonder if this is supposed to take place in a learning environment. And the ground, what lookes like dirt was actually recycled bits of rubber (thank you Firestone).
So picture this, lovers of pessimistic metaphor! You have a learning environment used as the bulwarks of a ground that serves as both battleground and burial ground! Sound familiar anyone?
This, along with the costumes that were taken from now (plain, black, nothing too bold), desert storm, the ’30s and well, birthday suits, it took me a while to understand that this play is not time-specific, rather this is a play that is inclusive to the history of humanity. This, however, did not keep me from seeing Creon, played by David Warshofsky, the cool antagonist who stole the kingdom, as Bush; and Antigone, played by Christina Delaine, as someone taken straight out of the Seattle WTO protests. This play is relevant to your life, your grandmother’s life and her grandmother’s life.
Another thing that is too often left unspoken of in reviews are the foils that help define the protagonists, like Antigone’s sister, Ismene, played by Kelly Tallent. The viewer could not have such an ideal and clear picture of Antigone the warrior without her “unwilling to participate” sister. We all have these characters in our lives. You may be one of them.
Ismene, for the majority of the play, sits naked in a white bathtub placed to the right of the stage, trying desperately to cleanse herself of the “dragon’s blood” (a metaphor for those prone to try and better the world through action, oh my!) that runs through her system. She wants so much not to shake things up in the world anymore than they’ve already been shaken. (Oedipus was her father, need I say more?). And then there’s Antigone. Who says, simply, that it is her duty not only to the gods, but also to her family whom she loves.
Ironically, Ismene, with her pale, naked body and stringy, white hair looks dead from the beginning of the play, when all the actors walk out at the same time, where Antigone, who dies in the end (not to ruin it for you, you should know this anyway), exudes the passion of life with every dark step she takes. In the end, though, one has to wonder, “Is it fate that makes us either passive bath-takers or raging protestors?” If you’re a woman, this could be a night to ponder what women have done to make changes in this world, and how their womanly strength can cut at the egos of the stubborn Creons who think they run it.
So, if you have been thinking about doing something about the world’s injustices, and wondering about whether you’re destined to be at the next WTO protest, and you haven’t seen any of the plays that the new artistic director of Portland Center Stage, Chris Coleman, has lined up, this is one to see. Chances are you’ll be more inspired than those hours of video games, the Saturday night made-for-tv movie, or the inevitable night of drinking or homework, depending on who you’re fated to be.