Too late! antigone (contest #2)
nytheatre.com review by Will Fulton
January 8, 2011
TOO LATE! (antigone) contest #2 is the second in a series of three “contests” created by Italian company Motus examining dynamics of power and resistance in Antigone. Rather than presenting any sort of formal telling of the plot, the piece has the open feeling of an exploratory workshop, wherein relationships are put under the microscope through a series of analogies or theatrical games. The structure is informal, opening with the two performers spinning a water bottle to determine who goes first, “like a hip-hop contest,” then proceeding with its various moments flowing into each other, or breaking down into the actors talking about the piece. The audience sits in rows on either side of the stage, adding to the feeling that we are being welcomed into an open process of exploration, rather than being presented with a polished product.
The relationships in question for this contest are those of Kreon (Vladimir Aleksic) with Haimon and, primarily, Antigone (both played by Silvia Calderoni). The means by which these relationships are explored include Kreon addressing Haimon as a yapping puppy, eventually becoming a dog himself, or Kreon speaking with Antigone as a petulant teenager, refusing to behave at the dinner table. In devising these extrapolations, the cast makes deft use of an intelligently limited material vocabulary, including some rolled-up mats, a table, markers for writing on their bodies, and rubber masks with more than a passing resemblance to Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.
The most striking design element used in the piece is Andrea Comandini's sound design. Though the audience is close enough that no amplification is necessary, both performers are equipped with body mics turned up to pick up their every breath and whisper. Seeing performers so close and yet hearing them primarily through the sound system is alienating in the fully Brechtian sense, invoking a pointed awareness of the material conditions of performance, while at the same time creating a radio-like intimacy. We are periodically reminded of this throughout the show as effects are sparingly applied to their voices, both digitally (such as a delay echo) and analog (like the muffle and squish of talking with a rubber mask over both face and microphone). The sound is put to particularly brilliant effect at the end when an iPod that has been playing diegetically from Calderoni's sock is brought up to the microphone, consuming the space.
Calderoni and Aleksic are disarmingly charming performers, which is added to by the honesty of the show's frame of them playing themselves, making periodic references to their childhoods. This material is engaging, and if anything I wish there was more of it, particularly regarding Aleksic's story of how, when he was a boy he watched from his roof as bombs fell on Belgrade. Calderoni gives a virtuosically physical performance as Antigone and Haimon, creating some of the piece's most visceral moments, such as her tenuous acrobatics while hanging from a piece of fabric tossed over the swinging lights.
Ultimately Too Late is an interesting if somewhat lightweight examination of the relationships in Antigone. Though all of the moments are interesting in and of themselves, the lack of a broader structure to provide context prevents the piece from ever reaching the revelatory or truly arresting. That being said, at any given moment there is something interesting happening on stage. It's just that I would hope, given both the high-profile venue and the play's immense history of performance, adaptation, and scholarship, to see something a bit more assertive.