“Antigone” at University of Dayton’s Boll Theatre
By Jacqui Theobald
Photo: [Foreground center; l to r] Bev Dines and Mary Mykytka in The University of Dayton Theatre Program’s production of “Antigone”; photo: Lori D’Agostino-Gough
It was significant in 414 B.C. It was daring in 1944. It is a real challenge in 2013. The play is “Antigone,” written by Sophocles and translated often in the years since. The modern version was written by Jean Anouilh during World War II as a strong but subtle message to French Resistance fighters.
The current version, translated into English, is currently playing at University of Dayton’s Boll Theatre and bears many parallels to current events in this country and the world. The basic issue presented is the challenge of one deeply principled person against the system; against conventional thinking and power heavy behavior and decisions by those at the top.
The idealist is Antigone, daughter of the deceased Oedipus, King of Thebes. She believes law must not violate morality. The system is personified by Creon, Antigone’s uncle, now the king. The issue is Creon’s dictum to prevent the burial of Antigone’s older brother, Polynices, because he has defied and betrayed the king and Thebes. She is determined to cover his body with dirt, no matter what the consequence, even if doing so means her own death when she attempts to bury him a second time.
Mary Mykytka plays Antigone with appropriate conviction and defiance. She makes her small frame into a large symbol of opposition. She believes it is her duty to make sure her brother’s death is honored properly so that he will be able to enjoy an afterlife. Creon is just as determined that his rule be followed. The rising arc of their conflict is a fine dramatic opportunity for both actors, even though he’s torn between wanting to save her and exerting his authority.
Creon is very ably played by Alex Chilton, who creates a mature persona. He is stern, he is loving, he grieves, all the while maintaining his reluctantly royal demeanor. He said, “I had to become king to clean up the corruption of Thebes.” He conveys well the weight of his beliefs. “Those who make the laws are obligated to obey them.”
Chorus, a single character in the Anouilh play, performs the narrative duties of the noble elders and chorus leader of Sophocles’ play. She introduces the characters, tells the story and makes poetic and sometimes wry observations. Beverly Dines, with elegant diction brings a fine sense of wisdom and clarity as she explains both the humanity and the philosophy and beliefs.
Linda Dunlevy – long-time faculty in University of Dayton’s Department of Communication – plays the nurse, bringing a portion of warmth to the driven, determined Antigone. A passionate Haemon, Creon’s son, also brings a different warmth as Antigone’s lover and fiancé. Kevin Cavallaro handles romance and then the angry son and his eventual grief with skill.
Tony Dallas directs with subtlety and a sense of movement and action. Guards and messengers enter from the back of the theatre running down the aisle and onto the stage at marathon speed, requiring a good bit of athleticism from actors, including the messenger and the camouflage clad guards, Bryan Byrk, Marty Piszkiewicz, Nicolas Cirino and Brandon Woods. They handle Antigone boldly. Part of her makeup is the appearance of bruises that may be real by the end of the run. Middle school student Brandon Plate debuts on the college stage as the king’s page.
Equally dynamic are the directed reaction and interaction between actors. Creon rants and raves in frustration at Antigone’s stubbornness. In silence, she conveys both her fear and her resolve. Scenes between the sisters Antigone and Ismene – played by Abby Christy – are equally convincing with a range of emotion and connection.
Megan Cooper played Antigone in 1999, the first time UD did the play. She said, “Tony had great expectations of us and encouraged us to push ourselves. I remember working on a particularly crucial and emotional scene opposite Bruce Cromer (Creon) and trying to ‘act.’ Tony saw through that façade and helped me not to just listen for my cue, but to understand the power of being, listening and speaking on stage, as opposed to ‘acting.’”
Tony Dallas is a classics scholar, knowledgeable in ancient and modern theatre. He is also a man who loves being a director. “It gets my juices working,” Dallas said. “It’s the process, working with the kids, getting into the vein deeper than the play, their relationship to the play. It is a live thing when the play’s done right and it continues to ripen with a flow of energy. Then the director’s job is done.”
Dallas also teaches various courses on tragedy, comedy, African American theatre and playwriting, and has written successful plays himself.
Producer Darrell Anderson – long time UD theatre professor and current administrative program director of the UD Theatre Program – designed the very spare set and effective lighting design. Student Matthew J. Evans was Technical Director. It was Anderson who asked Dallas to be part of the campus-wide Human Rights campaign: “Rites. Rights. Writes.” “This second look at a play that remains so relevant is the result.”
In the program, Dallas said the impetus for doing “Antigone” was the Arab Spring. “It is hardly a blue print to understanding what is going on in Egypt, Syria or Libya. I hope it at least raises our collective concern.”
The University of Dayton Theatre Program has mounted a piece that will generate conversation and connections and challenges. It is both a tragedy and a gift.
The University of Dayton Theatre Program Presents “Antigone” Thursday, Oct. 31, Friday, Nov. 1 and Saturday, Nov. 2 at the Boll Theatre, 300 College Park Dr. For more information, please call 937.229.3950 or visit udayton.edu/artssciences/theatre.
Reach DCP theatre critic Jacqui Theobald at JacquiTheobald@DaytonCityPaper.com