Antigone, First Folio Shakespeare Festival, at the Peabody Estate at Mayslake. Alison C. Vesely’s adaptation of Sophocles’ classic tragedy, about the stubborn, pious daughter of Oedipus, is serviceable enough. Using a late-19th-century translation now in the public domain, Vesely eliminated the musty, academic English that weighs down many productions. But she goes to the other extreme, flattening much of Sophocles’ most moving poetry and turning passages of passionate rhetoric into mere arguments. Her prosaic adaptation might have worked better if her direction had been sharper and her vision for the play clearer.

As it is, Vesely depends way too much on the kindness of her actors, not all of whom seem to understand that performing a Greek tragedy requires a different set of acting skills than those needed in an Arthur Miller or Neil Simon play. Melissa Carlson Joseph never quite summons up Antigone’s grace, intensity, and poignance. Even when it’s clear that Antigone is sacrificing everything, including her life, Joseph seems only mildly pissed off. Richard Marlatt’s performance as the tyrannical King Creon is too angry too early, leaving him no room later to do more than shout even louder and overact even more broadly. Chaon Cross is quite winning, however, as Antigone’s mild-mannered sister Ismene. Onstage only a fraction of the time that Joseph is, she still makes us worry more about Ismene’s fate than we do about Antigone’s.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/D. Rice.