Antigone a unique melding of Greek drama and ’70s-style rock musical

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Combining a modernized version of a Greek drama with a ’70s-style rock musical sounds like an iffy prospect, but Sick + Twisted Theatre, in collaboration with AA Battery, has created something unique and often thrilling in the melding of these disparate genres.

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Combining a modernized version of a Greek drama with a ’70s-style rock musical sounds like an iffy prospect, but Sick + Twisted Theatre, in collaboration with AA Battery, has created something unique and often thrilling in the melding of these disparate genres.

The local theatre troupe, which explores the experience of living with a disability, is working with an adaptation of Sophocles’ 2,000-year-old tragedy by Anne Carson, the award-winning Canadian poet and translator, and it crackles with contemporary language and sly humour, even as it tells an ancient story of death and regret.

SICK + TWISTED THEATRE

Antigone (Sarah Luby, centre) is surrounded by the chorus as she is sentenced to death.

It’s been further transformed into a sung-through musical, with Carson’s text set to music by composers Tim Friesen (piano/vocals) and Jorge Requena Ramos (vocals) of the Mariachi Ghost, which also provides some stand-alone songs.

It’s a bombastic, melodic rock opera — think the Who’s Tommy — that the band (which also includes drummer/vocalist Ian Mikita, guitarist Rafael Reyes, bassist Henry Onwuchewa and guitarist Gabriel Fields) performs live onstage at Theatre Cercle Molière as most of the action unspools on the floor below.

Theatre review

Antigone
Sick + Twisted Theatre
Theatre Cercle Molière, 340 Provencher Blvd.
To Sunday, Nov. 27
Three-and-a-half stars out of five

Antigone is the daughter of Oidipous, who was fated to marry his mother and killed his father. Her two brothers, Eteokles and Polyneikes (all characters are named used Carson’s spellings), have slain each other on the battlefield in the War of Thebes.

King Kreon, leader of Thebes, has decreed that Eteokles shall be buried, while Polyneikes, whom he considers a traitor, will be left unconsecrated above ground.

As Antigone, willing to risk death to see her brother buried, Sarah Luby is electrifying, with a voice that rings with defiance and despair.

SICK + TWISTED THEATRE

The Greek chorus (foreground) reacts as Mariachi Ghost performs onstage in Antigone.

Joanna K. Hawkins plays the imperious Kreon, and the deaf actor is captivating, with a commanding stage presence. Director Arne MacPherson positions her onstage, where she performs using American Sign Language while her vocals are provided by the king’s “minion,” Matthew Fletcher, an absolute powerhouse, on the floor with his back to the audience. It is a testament to their symbiosis that the audience forgets two people are contributing to the role.

Meanwhile, MacPherson has Christopher De Guzman and Andrea del Campo deliver comic relief in tandem, in the form of a guard and his buddy who report to the king that Polyneikes’ body has been buried against his wishes. De Guzman, who is deaf, can tell a story with his fantastically expressive face and hands, while del Campo gives voice to his goofy dialogue.

SICK + TWISTED THEATRE

Joanna Hawkins as King Kreon, who sends Antigone to die in the desert.

The versatile del Campo also shows off her pipes as Ismene, Antigone’s sister, who declines to help her with her brother’s burial but later tries to make amends.

Vivi Dabee gets in some sarcastic jabs as the blind seer Teiresias, who comes to tell Kreon he’s brought disaster upon himself with his foolish decisions, while Tracey Nepinak portrays restrained grief as Eurydike.

Carson’s dialogue is rhythmic, gorgeous and spiky, and clearly understandable in the sung-through portions of the work.

However, the interstitial songs, while catchy rock numbers, are less successful. Though Requena is a dynamic performer with a strong voice, the difference between rock vocalist and musical-theatre vocalist is evident: while the hearing audience can make out every word Fletcher sings, Requena’s lyrics are muddier. Since they seem to relate to what the Citizen Chorus — De Guzman, Dabee, Nepinak, Debbie Patterson and Alexandra Garrido — is doing, chunks of the meaning are lost.

SICK + TWISTED THEATRE

King Kreon (Joanna Hawkins, left) scolds his son, Haimon (Alexandra Garrido).

And while less-is-more staging can work very effectively with more intimate shows, a production this ambitious and assured cries out for glam costumes and splashier design — a smidge more Technicolor dreamcoat — though the gold body paint on Hawkins is an excellent touch.

Some performances of Antigone include ASL interpretation, live audio descriptions and live captions in English and French; see sickandtwisted.ca for details. Friday’s show featured ASL interpreters Tessa Rogowski and Cindy Boskow, both poetry in motion.

jill.wilson@winnipegfreepress.com

Twitter: @dedaumier

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Jill Wilson

Jill Wilson
Senior copy editor

Jill Wilson writes about culture and the culinary arts for the Arts & Life section.

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