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The Antipodes
by Annie Baker

COMPANY : Pinch n' Ouch Theatre [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Pinch 'n' Ouch Theatre [WEBSITE]
ID# 5516

SHOWING : May 16, 2019 - June 08, 2019



In Annie Baker’s "The Antipodes," a group of people sit around a table telling, cataloging, and theorizing stories. Are they brainstorming ideas for a TV show? A film? A mythology? This is a world where ghostly fables co-exist with mundane discussions of snacks and sexual exploits, where the vague instruction to tell stories about "something monstrous" though "it might not be a literal monster" becomes maddeningly impossible. Part satire, part sacred rite, "The Antipodes" asks what value stories have for a world in crisis.

Director Grant McGowen
Danny M1 Jeff Morgan
Max Jayson Smith
Sandy Alex Van
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by playgoer
Tuesday, June 11, 2019
Annie Baker likes to give actors challenges. In "The Antipodes," she has half the cast members recite long lists of the number of distinct types of stories, and that’s not counting an actor who spins a convoluted creation myth story after chugging two cans of sparkling water. There’s a lot of memorization required, and not of the type that mimics naturally flowing conversation. The ultimate goal of the brain-storming session that forms the heart of the play is never fully explicated, so it’s as if Ms. Baker intends to challenge both actors and audience with pointless story-telling.

That said, director Grant McGowen and his talented cast have put together a production that holds interest throughout the first act. The brainstorming sessions peter out as the second act unfolds, and with the absence of Alex Van as the group’s leader, the script starts to wander before ending. The show has an intriguing concept, but it’s one that defies conventional resolution. The play replaces plot with an extended series of interrelated character studies.

Mr. Van is forceful as Sandy, the wealthy leader of a group of brainstormers. Michael Weldon is sour as long-time team member Dave, while Jeff Morgan has a gentler presence as an equally-long-time member. Britt Douyon plays the ever-snacking newbie Eleanor with great charm (although she hardly looks half-Icelandic), and Keith Douglas is a nerdy bundle of nerves as another new team member. Thien Vuong, as Josh, is pretty expressionless, and Will Redwood, as Adam, has a pretty dull demeanor too. James Cogswell has a couple of nice turns as note-taker Brian, and Jayson Warner Smith creates an effective performance in a videotaped segment. Holly A. Johnson is a sheer delight as assistant Sarah, all perkiness and wide-eyed enthusiasm.

Mr. McGowan wears several hats in the production. In addition to directing, he has designed the costumes, lights, and sound, all of which enhance the show. The glitchy videotaped segment is particularly fine, beautifully edited for maximum comic effect. While the supposed Skype session is occurring, a projection screen descends to cover the back wall, a grid of twelve window panels whose colors mimic the saturated pastels of the LaCroix sparkling water boxes that are stacked in front of them. A half-oval conference desk uses up most of the real estate on the raised stage, with six office chairs around it, plus a higher stool for Sandy. Another chair sits in the up left corner for the note-taker. It’s all very corporate-looking, but with a color-coordinated feel that extends to the Post-It notes on the table and on the whiteboard on the stage left wall.

"The Antipodes" looks at mythic storytelling from various perspectives, bringing in the individual characters’ backstories through the excuse that Sandy’s brainstorming style is to draw from the personal lives of the brainstormers. It’s entertaining to start with, but wears thin after a while. Still, the brilliance of the acting and the taut direction make this a show definitely worth seeing. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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