Friday, September 27, 2019

Shizuoka's Performing Arts Center's Antigone

Arnold Bocklin's "Isle of the Dead," Basel version, (1880)
No spoiler alert is necessary.  In fact, The Shizuoka Performance Arts Center’s production of Antigone at the Park Avenue Armory, spells out the iconic plotline in the first few minutes. Antigone (Maki Honda, Micari) defies the state in attempting to bury her brother Polyneices (Keita Mishima) who has also paid for defying authority. “Don’t go to war against the dead,” warns the prophet Tiresias (Soichiro Yoshiue, Takahiko Watanabe) and soon King Creon (Kuzonori Abe, Kuoichi Ohtaka) pays dearly for his stubbornness. The current production is an opera in the form of a threnody. “Hades was lead to shores of Acheron” is one of the lines. The palette is an enormous dark pool filled with stone protuberances (symbolic tombs?) presided over by the famed oarsman in which the residents of Thebes amble like sleepwalkers with their shrouds projecting enormous shadows in a setting  reminiscent of Noh theater. Talking about water, there’s a touch of watered-down Robert Wilson in these slow-moving figures moving to the sounds of Hiroko Tanakawa’s musical accompaniment, with its thunderous and ominous drumbeats. Diluting theatrical inventions seems to be an unfortunate characteristic of the performance art presented at the Armory. The earlier The Lehman Trilogy could have been criticized for being watered down story theater. If you want the real thing you’ll have to go to BAM. Nevertheless, the Shizuoka’s production does confront an interesting problem, ie what to do when your narrative is a foregone conclusion? There’s something almost admirable about removing all the drama as the director Satoshi Miyagi has done, turning his whole mise en scene into a tableau vivant which envisions the world of the dead (and the inherent spiritual sickness of a cursed city) as a modernist canvas say like Bocklin's "Isle of the Dead"--which ends Strindberg's The Ghost Sonata.

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