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Salt Lake Acting Company presents Too Much Memory

February 13, 2010

Salt Lake Acting Company

Too Much Memory by Keith Reddin and Meg Gibson

168 West 500 North
Salt Lake City, Utah

It is always interesting to think about the relevance of current political situations through the retelling of classic stories. I guess that’s what keeps theatre alive. If it wasn’t for retelling we would have stopped telling stories back in the stone-age. Right now, Salt Lake Acting Company is revisiting the story of Antigone, the tragic continuation of the story of Oedipus. Remember he’s the one who marries his own mother then gouges his eyes out once he figures out what he’s done? The one Freud was obsessed with. Well before his self-inflicted punishment, his mother/wife kills herself, they had 4 children: Eteokles, Polyneices, Ismene, and Antigone. A bunch of Greek drama ensues which would rival any recent episode of Jersey Shore. Seriously. Brother fights brother over the crown of Thebes, and both end up dead. Before Polyneices’ death Antigone—his sister/aunt promises that she will bury him properly which apparently is a big deal, family honor and all that jazz, so she agrees. Problems occur though when her uncle/brother-in-law Creon, the current king of Thebes, prohibits by law, capital punishment in fact, for anyone to bury Polyneices as he’s considered a first class enemy of the state. Antigone does it anyway and gets in major trouble. To make matters worse she’s in love with and betrothed to marry Creon’s son, Haemon (her cousin/nephew?). How does it end? Well let’s just say they don’t call it a Greek tragedy for nothing…

Which brings us to SLAC’s Too Much Memory “an adaptation of an adaptation of a translation” of this classic story by Sophocles written by Keith Reddin and Meg Gibson. This version is a modern telling of this same twisted story littered with quotes from contemporary politicians and poets. The point? The best answers lie in compromise not in unbending rigidity of opinion. The two main characters, Antigone played by the upcoming young actress Nikki Nixon, and Creon played by veteran actor Morgan Lund, are extreme in opinion and unyielding to understanding. Gibson (writer/director) guided her actors down a road where we see the tragedy of a polarized world. Nixon played Antigone with relentless passion and there were moments when Antigone seemed obviously in the right.  However, her passion also paved way for the times when she seemed more tyrannical than her right winged, ultra conservative uncle. On the other hand, despite Creon’s striking resemblance in appearance and demeanor to Richard Nixon, he had extremely sympathetic moments of understanding. The dilemma clearly was raised that maybe neither one was right or wrong. The supporting cast also brought enhanced texture and intensity to the piece. Whether it was the yes-man type soldiers or the painfully silent wife of Creon, the entire cast brought a heightened sense of awareness to the theatre. Watching them watch each scene helped me feel the importance of each word.

Gibson also created an interesting theatrical space where the actors watched the play alongside the audience. As an audience we were kept removed from the story almost in a Brecht sort of way by having the stage very minimal and specifically defined by strike tape and chalk. The audience and players were on the outside of the story. We were meant to observe and learn from this play. It was never intended for us to “lose ourselves” in the characters or pathos of the story. The events unfolding were entirely speculatory which I found completely effective. I enjoyed the use of the space as a small box perhaps representing the boxes society or authority encroaches upon us.

SLAC describes this play as “a fast and furious tale about speaking out” which is exactly how I felt leaving the theatre. I felt exhausted from the whirlwind of emotions experienced, frustrated with my own boxes, but mostly excited to do my own screaming out. All that after only an hour and a half. That’s like Antigone with ADD and that seems about right for our generation. My cry then is, may the retellings continue. Even if it is an adaptation of an adaptation of an adaptation… Whatever it takes to help us learn these vital lessons despite the changing times.

Article by Meggan Steffenson

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