To spark discussion, the Walker invites Twin Cities artists and critics to write reviews of our performances. The ongoing Re:View series shares a diverse array of independent voices and opinions; it doesn’t reflect the views or opinions of the Walker or its curators. Here, Argentinean-born performer and educator Dario Tangelson shares his perspective on Antigonón, un contingente épico, the opening work of Out There 2018, by Havana’s Teatro El Público.
Antigonón, un contingente épico, by Teatro El Público, took over the Walker’s McGuire stage on Thursday night, propelled by the impulse of a fate marked by resistance literally endured by the Cuban company, which struggled to cross the borders in order to be allowed to expose their work in this country.
The echoes of monumental passions sparked by an act of dissent that ignites Antigone’s defiance in Sophocles’s original Greek tragedy guides the resolve of the company to re-envision the work through a backdrop of the history of the Cuban Revolution, juxtaposed with performance and design, that unleashes the production’s burning awareness, contradictions, absurdities, and unstoppable honesty.
It was a rare privilege to experience a 21st-century vision of Cuba by a group of artists who are fully committed to their work and live in Havana. They offered their own critical perspective about a history that for US audiences has been obscured by 65 years of blockades, fear, and an overall uninformed historical perspective.
The show is in no way a well-intentioned folk piece, tailored to give audiences a safe and acceptable product of entertainment, unthreatening behaviors, sentimentality, or engaging storylines that show, at a safe distance, the archetype of “those people” (whatever unspecified Latino lineage they belong to).
The vision and presence of Antigonón plants a flag in which the bodies of the performers themselves challenge the safe, complacent expectation of entertainment, offering a different embodiment of the contradictory forces that exist within everyday human archetypes struggling to fit the tight mold of ideal behavior. The amazing technical strength and rigorous specificity displayed by the performers builds a platform of humor and vulnerability with a completely different sensibility than we see in most North American theater. The play generates intense moments of bewilderment through the absurd contradictions between design elements, performance, and text while the audience tries to find its footing within a narrative so layered and dense that it insists we ultimately embrace the same absurdity as core to the work’s meaning.
Surrendering to the monumental act of challenging the established narrative has revolutionary implications. Teatro El Público fiercely represent that resolve, fighting its way on to the stage, ready to show the heart of that spark.