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A CurtainUp Review

As Played & Danced By Three Fates On the Way to Becoming Three Graces

There is much that is strange, but nothing that surpasses man in strangeness. . .
---from the conclusion or Part III.
Leroy Logan as  theShriek Operator
Leroy Logan as theShriek Operator
(Photo: Paula Court)
The 55-minute dance theater piece currently at the Classic Stage Theater is a collaboration made in avant-garde heaven: a text by the wizard of word play Mac Wellman, direction and musical staging by the Big Dance Theater's director Paul Lazar and choreographer Annie-B Parsons. Who but Wellman could venture into ancient Greek theater and come up with a "pre-Antigone?" Who but Lazar and Parsons could move with such ease and inventiveness through Wellman's playful linguistic exercise?

The prolific and always surprising Wellman's first journey into Greek myth is more musical tone poem than play. His deconstruction or prequel to Sophocles' Antigone is brilliantly acted out and danced by the production's four performers.

Wellman has kept all the traditional parts: Creon, Antigone's sister Ismene, Creon's Son Haemon, Creon's wife Eurydice (who in Wellman's version is also Teiresias) and the chorus of Theban citizens. But in this highly stylized collaboration, all these parts are played by the chameleonic, maskless Three Fates (Deidre O'Connell, Molly Hickock and Rebecca Wisocky), who are also Three Facts, on their way to becoming the Three Graces. O'Connell is a moving Antigone. Wisocky, an actor-dancer whose enormous range I've long admired, is a mesmerizing and quite humorous Creon whose kingly edicts are delivered into a microphone. Hickock takes on the roles of Teresias and Eurydice, as well as sharing the Chorus scenes with a fourth Fate, Nancy Ellis.

If all this sounds more than a little confusing and inaccessible, anyone not well schooled in the Greek tale is indeed likely to be swept with a sense of "this is all Greek to me." Still, if you just sit back and watch the four women dance and deliver the bursts of babbling dialogue, you'll gradually get the general sense if not all of it.

To add to the fun (yes, much of this IS fun with quite a few laugh out loud moments), there's a non-dancing narrator with the intriguing name of Shriek Operator. This character is zestfully portrayed by Leroy Logan. He's on the stage (reconfigured for this presentation so that only the center seating section is in use, rather than the usual thrust), even before everyone has arrived. A big man with a white beard, he sits mute at a desk cluttered with toy instruments, a microphone and all manner of electronic gadgetry. When he begins to talk this rather weird Santa Claus look-alike describes himself as a "god of unknown origin," His narration helps The Three Fates a.k.a. The Three Facts move through various versions of their story -- beginning with these three unpleasant girls or Fates watching a battle field heaped with dead clothing from afar and on to the dramatic final segue into The Three Graces.

The staging overall is appropriately spare with just a few simple but apt and often amusing props. Cynthia Hopkins' songs, Claudia Stephens' flowing costumes add plus points to this unusual merger of poet-playwright and dance company.

A caveat: This Antigone is not for everyone. It will probably appeal most to modern dance enthusiasts and theater goers willing to adjust their concept of classic Greek theater to buy into Wellman's conceit. In a season in which Greek drama has been amply represented on stages all over town, this whimsical what if certainly fits the trend towards modernized myth-chief making.

Written by Mac Wellman
Directed by Paul Lazar
Choreography & Musical Staging by Annie-B Parson
Cast: Nancy Ellis, Molly Hickok, Leroy Logan, Deirdre O'Connell and Rebecca Wisocky.
Set Design: Joanne Howard
Costume Design: Claudia Stephens
Lighting Design: Jay Ryan
Sound Design: Jane Shaw
Songs by Cynthia Hopkins
Running time: 60 minutes without intermission
Classic Stage, 136 East 13th Street, (212/ 677-4210,
4/27/04 through 5/23/04; opening 5/02/04.
Tuesday 8:00pm / Wednesday 8:00pm / Thursday 8:00pm / Friday 8:00pm / Saturday 2:00pm & 8:00pm / Sunday 3:00pm
Reviewed by Elyse Sommer based on April 30th press performance
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