In "The Rites of Antigone" at the Bloomington Playwrights Project, writer and director Rick Fonte has reimagined Sophocles’ "Antigone" as the mythic basis for a future post apocalyptic tribal society. The story of a young girl’s rebellious loyalty to her brother in the face of the civil authority represented by Creon has become the basis for a rite of sacrifice. Fonte’s society has kept the overall plot of the tragedy of "Antigone," but mixed in scraps of teachings from the Bible, Shakespeare and Dante as well. Fonte’s direction runs the gamet from creative, but simple ritualistic choreography to more realistic stagings and even to direct addresses by the actors to the audience.
BPP Artistic Director Richard Ford has composed solo songs, choruses and a sound scape that add to the atmosphere of the action. Designer Rebecca Jarrell does a tour de force demonstration of just how much can be done in costume with tears, ties and body paint to characterized actors and a society.
In "Antigone" playwright Fonte has incredibly rich material to work with and a commitment to making it new and relevant for us in his "…Rites." Frankly, I found the play heavy going. The futuristic pagan ritual layered with the classic tale, despite the attempt at levity by the comic messenger, is pretty grim stuff. I’d like to say that the deep conflicting messages of the Greek original mixed with the equally thought provoking Christian myths struck sparks and opened insights, but they just painted a dull picture of a really troubled and awful society that seemed to have chosen a really terrible composite of the worst of the two traditions in a desperate search for order.
Now it’s certainly possible to draw lessons from the pain of this society. We have our share of people who are seeking order at any cost and leaders who are willing to let them. There were some touching and, in the light of recent history, thought provoking and cautionary moments in "The Rites of Antigone." As characters reflected on the destruction of their society they used the phrase "the day the planes came."
"The Rites of Antigone" by Rick Fonte, plays Thursday, Friday and Saturday at eight and Sunday at two through the 24 at the Bloomington Playwrights Project.