MVNU Theatre’s production of Antigone and its PG-13 rating push the department into mature themes and territory that were, until recently, unheard of for an MVNU production in a way that is thoughtful and constructive.
The overall performance presents a dilemma of personal ethics and state; but rather than a balancing act, the actors and production staff deliver a violent teeter-totter between logic and emotions.
This modernized classic shows excellent use of lighting and sound to both build and continue tension from scene to scene.
There are a few times when music volume overtakes monologue, or distracts from the solemn mood.
However, this is more than compensated for with an early sharp transition from extensive monologue to an excellently choreographed rock n’ roll fight scene that is one part Grecian battle, two parts Die Hard.
Most of the cast members start out a bit flat for their first few minutes of dialogue, but clearly become more at ease and one with their characters further along, especially as the story intensifies.
The entire cast delivers characters that are deeply serious and desperate to be understood, yet ceaselessly tongue-in-cheek, mocking each other at every turn.
Senior music education and vocal performance major Nicholas DeWalt plays a shockingly relatable Chorus, delivering monologues which range from chilling to slightly ironic, and often both at once.
Although DeWalt’s performance in the beginning and ending monologues are aloof and a bit stiff, talking at the audience rather than to us, everywhere in between the Chorus is the most relatable and human character in the show.
DeWalt clearly experiences anguish as deeply as the audience and other characters, and delivers his role as deeply human and empathetic rather than impartial juror or unaffected story teller.
The show’s title character, played by sophomore music major Cara Boyd, is pensive, tender and a bit mature for her age. In the first scene Boyd’s delivery is surreal or at times over done, and there are moments when her gestures feel repetitive or lost. However, she quickly and smoothly transitions to a genuinely troubled young woman determined to act on her feelings and unafraid of the consequences.
Boyd delivers the show’s first plot twist beautifully and with impact and can expertly bring seriousness and gravity back to comedic scenes with only a few words. Though her character dances on the border of melodramatic, her most important lines are excellent and convincingly delivered.
Boyd spars well on stage with senior Spanish major Aaron Turnbull who plays King Creon. The pair simply cannot outdo each other, but yank the audience back and forth between two sides of the argument with powerful determination.
Turnbull’s Creon is serious and utilitarian; at once serving, bullying and disconnected from his fellow man; genuinely caring and delusional; crazy, paranoid and practical. Turnbull personifies the layered dichotomy which is the heart of Antigone: completely right and completely wrong at the same time.
Though we may hesitate to sympathize with Creon’s legalism and rally to the rebel Antigone at first, Turnbull engages us on a deeply thoughtful level and forces us to face the question, “Do you know what you are dying for, Antigone?”
In short, Turnbull reminds us unquestionably there are more than two sides to every story. That being said, there are a few moments when his delivery is self-aware and the lines sound overly articulated and a bit unnatural.
Antigone’s sister Ismene, played by freshman theatre major Madeline Hire, is a consistently convincing and real performance; truly one with her character.
Sadly, where all other characters warm up as the show progresses, Hire’s energy cools off. Even then, Hire’s gestures and delivery are natural and there is no questioning the onstage sisterly affection between her and Boyd.
Junior art education major Jeremiah Wrucke plays Haemon, Antigone’s love interest. At first Wrucke comes off as a bit young, lighthearted and even immature compared to Boyd’s deeply serious Antigone. Yet his adoration, passion and romance cannot be challenged throughout the performance. What a nice surprise to finally see stage-kisses which convey love and passion, rather than awkward nausea!
Senior theatre major Serra Barrett’s role as Antigone’s Nurse is hilarious; amusingly grumpy and melodramatic with a great sense of the absurd. Even amidst the hilarity Barrett makes one pause to wonder if those are real tears.
The First Guard, played by junior nursing major Jared Wise, is another great source of comic relief in the show. Wise sometimes slurs his words and seems too aware of the audience; nonetheless he delivers the chatty, self-absorbed character with excellent comedic timing.
Freshman art major Breann Jamison and senior integrated social studies major Matthew Brady are delightfully plebian yet amusing Second and Third Guards, helping to anchor a show full of over the top characters.
Junior criminal justice and psychology major Clairanne Porter skillfully delivers a descriptive monologue over the show’s falling action as the Messenger. Porter’s role is unobtrusive but indispensable; a distinctive performance, but with the sense she could give the audience more emotionally.
Guest artist Jackson Barrett is an adorable nearly-silent Page who holds character well on stage, especially for a first performance. Freshman middle childhood education major Caroline Newton appears as the silent, diligent queen Eurydice. Unfortunately her final scene is partly hidden by Creon’s throne.
Overall it is clear that Professor Ryan Long and her entire cast and crew are moving MVNU’s theatre department in the right direction.
Antigone’s final performances are tonight and tomorrow night at 7:30pm in Thorne Performance Hall. Tickets are available for $5 each at theatre.mvnu.edu or at the box office an hour before show time.