There is time for everything in this life. There is even time to believe. Find the time to put your belief in Alicia Adams the current curator of the Spotlight on Directors series now debuting at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Adams, who is the Vice President of International Programming and Dance, has brought together a series of theatrical features to appear in this festival-style collection, with each running just a few performances in and out of the various houses of The Kennedy Center in the months of March and April. Presenting presently in The Eisenhower Theatre, with its Washington DC debut of Teatro El Público, from Director Carlos Díaz, Antigonón, un contingente épico, a fusion of the renowned epic Antigone with Cuba’s historic and modern day heroes.
The production itself is a jumble of concepts that may have been better served with simplicity. Though it is delivered entirely in Spanish, with English surtitles projected above the performers, there are a great many times throughout the evening where said translations either fall severely behind the speakers or are pushed ahead of the text before its delivered. This adds an unwanted element of confusion to the performance on the whole, detracting from some of the other bizarrely beautiful segments of the production. English Translator Dinorah de Jesus Rodriguez works with Dramaturge and Playwright Rogelio Orizondo to carefully express exacting sentiment from what is being spoken in Spanish to what is being read in English. But like in all language translations, somethings just do not translate well or even at all.
This is addressed by Director Carlos Díaz in the way that he pushes the five performers (Giselda Calero, Daysi Forcade, Luis Manuel Álvarez, Linnett Hernández, and Roberto Espinosa Sebazco) to deliver their text. With great swells of turbulent passion, particularly from the female performers— as they do the majority of the narration and dialogue exchanges in this production— it is easy to understand the emotions and sentiment of what’s being said, even when the translations don’t match up exactly, and especially when the surtitles have lagged behind or jumped ahead of the performers.
Díaz is overly ambitious in everything that he’s presenting with this production. His use of gratuitous nudity in the opening silent interpretive dance routine, which is fascinating to watch in and of itself but appears to have no correlation or connection to the remainder of the work, weakens his blatant use of it and the hyper sexualized overtones of the play later on. There is an imbalance of how Díaz uses nudity in this production, though it is tasteful in the beginning, it ultimately cheapens the effectiveness of his use of it later.
Costume Designer Celia Ledón Acosta does craft some astonishing pieces witnessed throughout the performance, but again this becomes a question of “is it better to say more with less?” Some of the pieces, absurd in their nature, though astonishing to marvel over, simply create confusion where either continued nudity or simpler clothing could have more effectively conveyed the various messages that the play is trying to import. Because of Acosta’s outlandish outfits— though to her credit the ‘junk’ costumes with bottles is by far one of the most intriguing— many of the ‘characters’ represented and portrayed become muddled and lost amid the menagerie of colorful clothing.
Óscar Bastansuri, the show’s Lighting Designer, deserves a nod of praise for following a simplistic approach for illuminating the show. Warm but muted side lights keep everything in focus against Set Designer Roberto Ramos Mori’s rather basic scenic backdrop. Mori is a good example of how the abstract notions of design can be presented in a simplistic fashion that enhances rather than detracts from the overall value of the production. Papier mâché texturing along the uprights, which flank a JumboTron projector on either side, display iconic images along with newspaper text to nudge the visual cues down the right path. The video segments used on said large projection screen, are also quite powerful, though again seemed to be a bit out of sync like the surtitles.
Overall the performance had great potential to be a deeply meaningful thing, tying in Cuban cultural heritage, struggles, strife, heroes, and epics with the legend and myth of Antigone. The use of the Greek tragedy as a framing device and connecting point was not expressed clearly enough for this experiment to be considered a success.
Running Time: Approximately 85 minutes with no intermission
Antigonón, un contingente épico plays two performances on Tuesday March 21st and Wednesday March 23rd 2017 in The Eisenhower Theatre as a part of the Spotlight on Directors Series now appearing at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts— 2700 F Street NW in Washington, DC. For tickets call the box office at (202) 467-4600 or purchase them online.