“There comes a time where silence is betrayal”.
An impromptu memorial sits at the foot of the palace, lovingly littered with flowers, teddy bears and candles - all in memory of Antigone’s two slain brothers, Polyneices and Eteocles. As peaceful as that sounds, there are also distressed pylons, broken barricades and multiple provocative signs with phrases like “End the war before it ends you,” “Rest in power” and the quote which opens this review about silence and betrayal. Before The Classical Theatre of Harlem’s Antigone even begins, these familiar images of mourning and protest make clear the relevance and importance of this powerful play. Written by Sophocles around 41 BC, this cautionary tragedy of justice, resistance and hubris is a play for today.
The Classical Theatre of Harlem has been presenting the classics since 1999.
Directed by Carl Cofield (who also helmed the incredible 2016 production of Macbeth), the TICKETS TO THE PERFORMANCES ARE FREE!
Though the performances are uneven, in this writer’s view, there are some stellar moments. Alexandria King as Antigone is passionate and commanding. Producing artistic director Ty Jones’ Creon is a broad-shouldered, smooth talking superhero who has profound lessons to learn (and he learns them painfully). Perhaps the most exciting scene is between Creon and his son, Haemon (played with resounding simplicity by Avon Haughton), in which we are surprised to learn where the son’s loyalties lie.
The role of Chorus is soulfully spoken and sung by a compassionate trio. Choreographer Tiffany Rea-Fisher (artistic director of Elisa Monte Dance) uses five lithe, charismatic dancers to portray the people of Thebes and reflect on the emotional content of the piece. A choreographic highlight is a moment where the dancers travel assertively down the two ramps in single file, their bodies oscillating in strong, staccato movements. They are a very dynamic ensemble but this writer couldn’t help but want to see more than five of them, especially if they are representing an entire group of people and doing so on such a towering set.
The superb set designed by the talented twins Christopher Swader and Justin Swader, provides a sense of palatial scale while still leaving room for interesting playing spaces. The images projected onto the set by 4Wall are stunning and evocative.
Inspired by Paul Roche’s Adaptation of “Antigone” by Sophocles, the added moments of colloquial dialogue connect us to the material (many times with humor) and make the relationships clearer. There are a handful of lines that almost stop the show, like referring to the usurping brother as “Poly-not-so-nice-es” and “You get one Whole Foods and you all acting ‘bougie’,” when referring to the people of Thebes. Though the audience seems to love this irreverent dialogue, Sophocles purists might be off-put by pivotal dramatic moments being diffused with comedy. For example, when Creon is informed that someone has defied his edict and buried his nephew, the guard’s speech gets so many laughs that it is difficult to tell whether we, as the audience really grasp the gravity of the situation.
There is something special about sitting under the stars and sharing an evening of compelling theatre with an energetic, New York audience. And did we mention that the TICKETS ARE FREE?!
Recommended especially for the theatre goer who might usually be intimidated by the words “classic” and “Sophocles”. You’ll be engaged and entertained!
Ty Jones, Kahlil X. Daniel, Carl Louis, Ava McCoy, Adaku Okpi, Toya Turner, Ryan Alvarado, Samantha Barriento, Denzel Fields, Daniela Funicello, Avon Haughton, Brynlie Helmich, Anthony V. Merchant, JoVonna Parks, Nedra Snipes and Thomas Varvaro
Director: Carl Cofield
Choreographer: Tiffany Rea-Fisher
Costume Designer: Lex Liang
Lighting Designer: Alan C. Edwards
Scenic Designer: Christopher & Justin Swader
Sound Designer: Curtis Craig
Production Stage Manager: Megan Sprowls
Projections Designer: Katherine Freer
Props: Samantha Shoffner
Thru July 29
Tuesday - Sunday at 8:30pm
*Note: In event of inclement weather, notice of show cancellations will be made via The Classical Theatre of Harlem’s website and social media pages, please refer to below for web addresses.
The Richard Rodgers Amphitheater at Marcus Garvey Park
18 Mt Morris Park W
New York, NY 10027
Enter the park at 124th Street & Fifth Avenue, and walk south to the venue.
FREE to general public, no reservations required.
Runtime: 60 minutes; no intermission
Editor’s Note: Picture This Post reviewer and choreographer Allison Plamondon has previously worked with Christopher Swader, Justin Swader and Thomas Varvaro
Photo credit: Richard Termine
Allison Plamondon is a choreographer, director, teacher and performer originally from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Choreography highlights include the Oscar-winning short film, Curfew , Goblin Market at 59E59 Theaters and direction/choreography/conception for The Tchaikovsky Vignettes at HB Studio. An avid teacher, Allison has taught at Broadway Dance Center, Abrons Arts Center and is currently on the faculty at Tom Todoroff Acting Conservatory. Performance highlights include Tap City-the Main Event, Trying at Cape May Stage and performing with Phish at Madison Square Garden. Directors Lab West ‘17, Uta Hagen Teacher Training, NYFA immigrant artist fellow, SDCF Observership with Kathleen Marshall (City Center Encores).
Learn more at the Allison Plamondon website.
Read more about Allison Plamondon in this Picture this Post feature story - "Choreographer Allison Plamondon on Merce Cunningham".