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Provocative Cuban remake of ‘Antigone,’ including a drag cabaret, is onstage at Redcat in downtown L.A.

LOS ANGELES — The Greek tragedy “Antigone” gets an epic reimagining by Havana’s internationally celebrated El Teatro Público and its provocative director Carlos Díaz in “Antigonón, un contingente épico.”

The play has performances tonight and Friday at Redcat before traveling to the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

The Greek tragedy “Antigone” gets an epic reimagining by Havana’s internationally celebrated El Teatro Público and its provocative director Carlos Díaz in “Antigonón, un contingente épico.” Photo: El Teatro Público.

Under Díaz’s direction, a five-actor Cuban ensemble mixes nude figures, fashion, a drag cabaret and archival footage with the poetry of legendary Cuban writer-activist José Marti to confront the tyrannical themes of Sophocles’ Greek classic.

The new production, written by playwright Rodelio Orizondo, is structured along a series of non-linear monologues and embroidered with exotically absurd costumes that the five-member cast dons and sheds rapid-fire as they work through dozens of different characters as seen through a series of flashbacks.

Díaz, who also is the artistic and general director of Teatro el Público and recently awarded Cuba’s National Prize for Theater, spoke with Q Voice News, via a translator, about the epic play.

On why he wanted to make Antigonón, un contingente épico’:

“Cuba is a country that has a tendency to look at things on a grand scale, monumental heroes and epic stories. This play takes from that imaginary realm. It’s historically played out in Cuba, from the forgotten to the iconic,” Díaz said. “I’m of the belief that all of our great myths should be rewritten over time.

“There are a lot of symbolic parallels with the original work. One thing that is common is the hero and the traitor, and how often these lines seem really clear, but in reality things are more complex. The person is portrayed as a traitor publicly, but there might might be more redeeming qualities that we don’t know.

“One of the things about the title, un contingente épico, is that there is one Antigone. But it takes a multiple Antigones to bury what we have lost.”

On the play’s elaborate costumes:

“One of the things important in the Teatro el Público is the nude body and the non-gratuitous use of the nude body. I’m interested in showing the beauty of the nude body and then juxtapose it with the costumes,” Díaz said.

“It’s almost a little bit of a protest against fashion,” he said. “We prefer to dress ourselves with our own filth, garbage and history instead of running after an idea of beauty.”

On El Teatro el Público’s tradition of using LGBTQ elements:

“We have always had a queer element in our work,” Díaz said. “One of the things I believe is that nobody should be excluded from the theater and from love.

“The show does have a lot of historic references to Cuba life. That refers to a time when it was extremely difficult in Cuba to be gay. It’s changed radically now,” he said. “People are more free to express their identity.”

The Greek tragedy “Antigone” gets an epic reimagining by Havana’s internationally celebrated El Teatro Público and its provocative director Carlos Díaz in “Antigonón, un contingente épico.” The new production, written by playwright Rodelio Orizondo, is structured along a series of non-linear monologues and embroidered with exotically absurd costumes that the five-member cast dons and sheds rapid-fire as they work through dozens of different characters as seen through a series of flashbacks. Photo: El Teatro Público.

About the author

Phillip Zonkel

Award-winning journalist Phillip Zonkel spent 17 years at Long Beach's Press-Telegram, where he was the first reporter in the paper's history to have a beat covering the city's vibrant LGBTQ. He also created and ran the popular and innovative LGBTQ news blog, Out in the 562.

He won two awards and received a nomination for his reporting on the local LGBTQ community, including a two-part investigation that exposed anti-gay bullying of local high school students and the school districts' failure to implement state mandated protections for LGBTQ students.

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