The O-town Scene

February 17, 2011

The O-town Scene - Oneonta, NY

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A Greek Classic Gets a Modern Makeover Last weekend, I had the opportunity to see a very unique interpreta- tion of Sophocles’classic tragedy “Antigone” in the Hamblin Theater at SUNY Oneonta. A fresh adaptation brought to us by Strong Coffee Stage and The Deconstruc- tive Theatre Project, this production hit home in every way. The seamless union of theatrical tech, performance and the overall concept kept me on my toes and intimately involved from start to finish. Bronwyn Sims and Patrick Donnelly, co-founders of Strong Coffee Stage, performed all roles, with artistic direction by Adam J. Thompson, founding director of The Deconstructive Theatre Project. Thompson’s vision for this adap- tation of “Antigone” was that of a myth, “the yield of centuries of collective storytelling: each varia- tion on the theme brings with it the mark of a new author.” Sims and Donnelly each had an interpretation of this adapta- tion, which they presented to the audience in a post-show talk, where we were invited to give feedback to help them evolve the show. Both saw family as a key element _ Sims focused on family commitment and Donnelly on the dysfunction in family. Upon walking into the theater, audience members were greeted by the cast and crew as they played a game of toss, setting the stage for a very intimate perfor- mance and easing the audience into the space. Two incandescent bulbs hanging from the grid above flanked the stage, each with a mirror and costume pieces where the actors made their character transitions. I thought this was a great way to frame the stage and provide opposing points of focus during scene transitions. Kelsey Minnich employed simple costume pieces to aid the audience in identifying characters. The walls were black and covered in red paint that dripped down as though it were blood. Costume sta- tions aside, the only set pieces were it was breathtaking, closing the show on a very high note. During the post-show talk session, the audience brought up a line from the show, “the future is inscribed upon the past.” This line was a focus in the performance that lends itself to conflicts in the world today, specifically, the protesting in Egypt. Not only did the audience find com- mon ground with this particular line, but with another that was written in chalk on the floor during the show, “Beware the risen people who have harried and held ye that have bullied and bribed.” A myth is passed on through generations of storytellers, each leaving a mark on the theme through variation. The adaptation of “Antigone” was indeed a new variation on an old theme that is still as relevant as it was in ancient Greece. Strong Coffee Stage and The Deconstructive Theatre Project have adapted an ancient story and under the direction of Thompson, created a relevant and living work of art. Thank you for sharing your bold, original and uniquely theatrical work with us. — Kyle Beckley Photo by Celia Burg Bronwyn Sims of Strong Coffee Stage performs a scene from ‘Antigone’ at SUNY Oneonta on Saturday. a large mirror, a table, aerial equipment and unplugged theater lighting that was positioned in the traditional backstage area of the theater, on their carts like jagged rocks. The simplic- ity of the set allowed for emphasis on the action and helped create an atmosphere where the performance seemed to be staged for each member of the audience, as if they were alone in the theater with the characters. The on-stage intimacy between Sims and Donnelly was powerful. I got chills several times just watching the nuances manufactured between the two of them as they explored the territory of their interpretations throughout the performance. The chills were at times influenced by Steve Piteo’s sound design and the use of subwoofers that stirred the audience from behind. Piteo’s use of modern music, including a cover of The Beatles, as background music, and the well- placed addition of a feverishly thumping heartbeat, among other sounds, gave the show the essence of a Hollywood movie where music often makes the magic. Lighting was impressive. I’ve seen many shows in the Hamblin, but none of them achieved the depth and perspective that I saw last weekend. Caitlin Smith Rapoport, lighting designer and production manager, expertly created a series of stark pictures, framed by attractive lighting techniques. I need to mention that I was pleasantly surprised by Sims’ aerial work at the end of the show, Feb. 17, 2011 O-Town Scene 5

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