The original, and still the best. NoExit Performance first staged Antigone on the Indianapolis Museum of Art grounds back in 2008. It was the kernel that would grow into this year's mighty month-long production of all three of Sophocles's Theban Plays, with Oedipus Rex and Oedipus in Colonus premiering on May 3 and 10, respectively. (All three plays will be again staged May 31 through June 2, one play per night, in chronological order, according to the storyline of the plays.) It was clear after seeing all three that the preceding two plays lacked a coherence and gravitas that Antigone successfully realized, largely by sticking to the script, paying more careful attention to stage movement and blocking and (mostly) jettisoning the first two play's misguided attempt to retool the chorus as a group of superfans, a concept not unfaithful to the role of the chorus in Greek drama as a sort of peanut gallery's reaction to the proceedings, but just plain unsuccessful in practice.
Of all the directors, Georgeanna Smith - reprising her role from 2008's production, and re-using many of the same locations and concepts - made the best use of the play's environment, creating the feeling that something might be lurking around any corner as the audience moved from one area of the Lilly House grounds to another, with the chorus acting as tour guides leading from one "set" to another. For instance, as the audience snaked down the stairs from the house's grass-lined porch to the lawn below, Oedipus and Jocasta - clad in the play's stark white death masks - sat watching on a hill to the far left of the field of vision, while Haemon (Romeo to Antigone's Juliet) worried on a bench, love-sick, directly ahead of the audience as it turned to the corner. And, to add to the mix, staring on in the distance, almost 180 degrees opposite to the on-stage action, was one of the production's trademark dead people/human statues, standing ram-rod straight in death mask. In other words, Smith asked of the audience a certain visual acuity - one was free to investigate the landscape and even choose one's own vantage point of the action, with only suggestions from the tour guides/chorus of where to stand or sit. And everywhere the audience looked, there was death, regally clad in a tragic drama mask, stolid as a Yeoman of the Guard.
While performances were convincing, if inconsistent - with Michael Hosp as Creon summoning up almost enough presence to come off as a conflicted but ultimately intransigent and violent leader, and Maria Souza-Eglen as Antigone gradually becoming more comfortable, believable and effective after some early shakiness - the play's brilliance came in its choreography. In a sense, the dead exert more power than the living in Antigone, a condition which Smith depicted by having Oedipus's dead sons pull the strings, as it were, of both Antigone and Creon, with Polynices (clad, like many others, in death mask) physically turning around Antigone to urge her back into a verbal battle with Creon, or miming the raising of her arm while she did the same in anger.