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Antigone: Requiem Per Patriarchus
By Lucy Cashion and the ensembles at the Women’s Eastern Reception, Diagnostic, and Correctional Center; St. Louis University Theatre; SATE; and Equally Represented Arts
Directed by Lucy Cashion
SATE Ensemble Theatre, Equally Represented Arts
August 14, 2019

Cast of Antigone: Requiem Per Patricarchus
Photo by Joey Rumpell Photography
SATE Ensemble Theatre, Equally Represented Arts

“Who is Antigone?” That’s a question the audience is directly asked multiple times and in different ways throughout SATE and ERA’s latest, called Antigone: Requiem Per Patriarchus.  It’s another Lucy Cashion remix of a work of classic drama, brought to today’s audiences in a way that speaks to both its timeless universality and its more personal connection with individual viewers and readers. As is usual for Cashion and for both of these theatre companies, the result is both convention-challenging and thought-provoking, showcasing a superb cast of local performers.

This isn’t your English teacher’s Antigone, although the play’s reputation as an oft-studied and assigned classic work of literature is addressed in this production. In a way, this is more than one story, and the set-up is essentially like a play-within-a-play. The set-up begins before the play “officially” starts, in a similar vein to other productions I’ve seen from both of these companies. The cast members wander the audience, each introducing herself as “Antigone”. As the play begins, the “sisters”–all clad in khaki-colored prison outfits, gather together in the middle of the floor space at the Chapel performance venue. They are all Antigone, they inform the audience, and they are in prison, but they are also dead, in some kind of in-between state, set to retell and reenact their story over and over. They read letters, they talk about the expectations and impressions that the Antigone story has produced over the centuries, and they express their solidarity as well as their individual voices. Then, in a stunning musical transition, the situation shifts, and the cast members all don flowing gowns and perform a version of the Antigone tale, with each “Antigone” taking a specific role and examining both the play itself and the timeless issues it raises, including the abuse of power and authority, men’s and women’s roles in society, speaking up for oneself and others, loyalties to families and countries, and more. The story at this point runs basically as it’s known, with Antigone standing up to her uncle, King Creon, who is refusing to allow her brother, who was killed along with another brother on opposing sides of a recent war, to be buried. As is usual for a Cashion show, the classic tale is blended with other influences, such as various cultural references and especially for this production, music. Various pop and rock songs are sampled in the production, and the cast members sing at various times. There’s also a persistent, ominous and highly effective percussion backing throughout, proficiently provided by Marcy Ann Wiegert.  There’s also intense drama and a touch of sarcastic humor. It’s one of those shows where I wish I could see it multiple times, because there is so much going on that it can be too much to process at times. Still, it’s a bold, challenging work, with an emotional resonance and a confrontational style that emphasizes both the personal and the universal about the Antigone story.

The cast is universally strong, with excellent moments from all–Alicen Moser, Victoria Thomas, Laura Hulsey, Taleesha Caturah, Ellie Schwetye, Natasha Toro,  and Miranda Jagels-Felix, with Wiegert supplying the drums and also as a member of the show’s Greek Chorus. it’s a true ensemble piece, with the whole cast contributing and working together as a cohesive unit, bringing out the meaning and depth of the play through collaboration, although there are some individual highlights. Standouts include Moser as the imperious and increasingly conflicted Creon, Jagels-Felix as a particularly strong-willed  “main” Antigone, Caturah as the haunting, challenging blind prophet Tyresias, and Schwetye in a series of stand-up comic routines that help maintain a confrontational, iconoclastic tone as the story plays out. The ensemble chemistry is excellent, as is the use of movement throughout. It’s a dynamic production, with a suitably dynamic cast and direction.

The visuals here are memorable, as well, transforming the small space at the Chapel into an otherworldly realm that the ensemble inhabits. With simple but lush scenic and sound design by Cashion, along with Erik Kuhn’s evocative lighting and Liz Henning’s distinctive costumes, the full dramatic effect of this show is enhanced. It’s an impressive transformation of the space.

I’ve made it no secret what I think about both SATE and ERA. Both companies are bold, innovative, thoughtful, and consistently excellent in acting and staging. This Antigone is another example of that tradition of excellence. It’s timeless, but it’s also very much “now”, with themes that speak to humanity, and particularly women’s experiences, throughout history. It’s a lot to think about and a lot to see. It’s a truly stunning presentation.

Cast of Antigone: Requiem Per Patricarchus
Photo by Joey Rumpell Photography
SATE Ensemble Theatre, Equally Represented Arts

SATE and Equally Represented Arts are presenting Antigone: Requiem Per Patriarchus at The Chapel until August 31, 2019

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