Putting a new spin on the song, He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother, The Long Beach City College Department of Theatre’s riveting production of Sophocles’s psychological drama, Antigone, directed by caryn desai, makes you wonder to whom you should pledge your allegiance.
Consolidating his hold on Thebes after the death of Oedipus, Creon (Rideaux Baldwin) decrees that the body of his traitorous nephew Polyneices shall remain unburied while the body of his heroic nephew Eteocles shall be given a proper burial.
Citing a moral authority higher than that of the state, Antigone (Lindsay Blackwell) pooh-poohs the edict and buries her brother. For her effort she’s condemned to death.
After the noble oration of his son – and Antigone’s fiancé - Haemon (Alberto Mendoza), the visit of the seer Teiresias (Jayarre Cox), who heaps doom and gloom on the ruler, and the exhortations of the Chorus, Creon changes his mind.
It’s too late. Antigone, Haemon, and his wife Eurydice have killed themselves.
It's what we don't see that makes the dead-simple set vivid and memorable. We don’t see Antigone’s sepulcher and so we don’t see the dying Haemon hugging her hanging corpse; we don’t see the blood he’s coughed up on her tasteful contemporary outfit.
We also don’t see the buried body of Polyneices and so we don’t reflect on the irony of Antigone’s buried alive body and his unburied dead body.
Masterful casting makes this a top-notch sleeper. The pairing of Blackwell as the tragic Antigone and Baldwin as the tragic and then some Creon intrigues me. It makes me think of a gumbo set in the Old South, a cross between the nobility and insouciance of Gone With The Wind, the smoldering passion and indifference of Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, and the murky undercurrents of Flannery O’Conner’s Wise Blood.
On one hand you’ve got this fiddle-dee-dee Scarlett O’Hara Antigone except that she’s not doing much fiddle-dee-deeing. Blackwell's register is perfect; the breathless and twittery resignation in her voice makes her sound as if she’s already half way to Hades.
Mr. Baldwin’s Creon swaggers with imperiousness. Dressed in a military uniform on which medals jangle like scalps, he reeks of hubris for which the gods wrack him. The haughtiness of his posture, his booming voice, and his military carriage mark him as the incarnation of the tragic soul who foolishly keeps his own counsel, sons, sages and citizens be damned.
With Blackwell’s Antigone and Baldwin’s Creon you’ve got an irresistible force running into an unmovable object. Think Scarlett butting heads with General Patton. The only winners are the members of the audience who experience a catharsis (Thanks, Aristotle, nice theory) as we witness the deflation of martial arrogance. Not that there’s a parallel to our current era. Heavens no.
Performances are Thu. - Sat., 8 PM, Sun., 2 PM. The show runs until March 4. Tickets are $7-10. The Auditorium is located at the City College campus at Clark and Harvey Way. For more information call 938-4563 or visit www.lbcc.edu/tdf.