Based on the 1986 Don Taylor translation, the Raleigh Little Theatre production of Antigone offers a ringside seat to a compelling conflict and the tragedy that results when opposing sides refuse to truly listen to one another. The effect is exceptionally chilling theater as executed by this group of Triangle teens.
While the tale is ancient, the setting is modern. The sounds and sights of gunfire and heavy artillery, as conceived by the design team of Kylee Silvas, Ryann Norris and John Maruca, suggest warfare. The back wall shows evidence of a recent bombing. Enter a resolute Antigone discussing her plans with her sister, Ismene. She is determined to bury her brother’s body, even if it is forbidden and goes against her uncle, Creon, who is also head of state. Antigone must obey her conscience; Creon must crush dissent.
These two roles are demanding, and both actors rise to the challenge, delivering passionate speeches that convey the emotional intensity of each of their characters. Valerie Pesot’s Antigone, wearing a defiant red leather jacket and ripped jeans, believes in the moral righteousness of honoring the memory of her beloved brother. She offers a forceful, fierce performance with no illusions about her fate.
David Snee’s Creon, dressed in a dark business suit, deploys the authoritative polished style of a confident politician. Initially, he mocks Antigone, then taunts her, before wielding the full force of his anger at what he sees as a total subversive move designed to undermine him personally and politically. This Creon’s descent is all the more painful and palpable for his lack of self-awareness, as well as his inability to engage in any kind of dialogue with anybody who opposes him.
Strong supporting performances highlight the range of talent. Brynna Rosenberg’s Ismene is the cautious sister, torn between supporting her sister and obeying Creon’s laws. Her moments with Antigone alternate between deep love and nervous anxiety about consequences, conveying a subtle, complicated sibling bond. As Haemon, Sean Moss shines fiercely as he attempts to sway his father’s opinion and save the life of his beloved. Jessica Soffian, in scene-stealing moments as the soldier delivering the fateful news of Antigone’s crimes, offers up some comic relief, even though the humor is dark.
Accenting much of the drama is the chorus, clad in a mix of military fatigue pants, dark shirts, and accessories, all designed by Elly McClanahan who has integrated a contemporary, age-appropriate style into her design. The chorus echoes the arguments made by Creon and Antigone, as well as engage in some finely choreographed modern dance reflective of the ongoing conflict. Jess Barbour deftly incorporates the youthful exuberance of the group while giving each performer time to shine. Meredyth Pederson Cooper directs the talented ensemble in this crisp 90-minute production.
Although it is not giving anything away to note the high body count by the end of the play, the true tragedy is watching the consequences of Creon and Antigone’s actions. Both march headlong into the conflict, unwavering in the righteousness of their beliefs until it is too late. It is a frank and telling reminder of the need for continued conversation and discourse (from the mouth of babes).
Antigone runs through July 28th at Raleigh Little Theatre. For ticket information visit: https://raleighlittletheatre.org/shows/antigone/.