Blood Line: The Oedipus/Antigone Story
Chicago Tribune, March 24,
New City, March 25, 1999
Chicago Sun-Times, March 24, 1999
Gay Chicago Magazine, April 12, 1999
Chicago Reader, April 2, 1999
SidewalkChicago.com, March 25, 1999
Copley News Service, March 21, 1999
Chicago Tribune, March
19, 1999 (preview)
Chicago Tribune, March
Classical Stories Brought to New Life
JoAnne Akalaitis, Anne Bogart, Robert Wilson
and most other postmodern cutting-edge directors in the American
theatre do the bulk of their creative work with well-established
institutions. They claim allegiance to the avant-garde, but
the scale of their visual conceptions demands a high level
If one is young and unestablished, it is difficult
to gain access to such resources and, consequently, hard
to do this kind of progressive large-scale work in the theatre.
Joanna Settle, the artistic director of Thirteenth Tribe,
is not only youthful, but her work and her itinerant company
are still largely unknown by even those Chicagoans who closely
follow the local theatre scene.
After Blood Line: The Oedipus/Antigone Story,
that should no longer be the case.
Whatever quibbles one may have about Settle's
avowedly singular interpretation of these two classic Sophocolean
dramas should not detract from her remarkable achievement
in bringing together excellent national designers, a high
level of acting craft and two major new translations by Nicholas
Rudall, without the support of any of our major established
Settle has raised a lot of money, talked a
lot of impressive people into giving her their time and talents
and generally created a massive installation-style performance
piece at a new space called The Viaduct. Blood Line should
be seen by anyone interested in encouraging fresh and distinctive
interpretations of classical drama.
Antigone, of course, makes the best sense right
after one has seen Oedipus the King, because it allows us
to directly explore the source of the cursed daughter's stubbornness
and familial malaise. In typically adroit fashion, Rudall
has crafted two theatrically workable new translations. Although
free of anachronisms and jarring colloquialisms, they nonetheless
seem fresh and alive.
Settle has filled her raw performance space
with gravel and scenic towers, and the cavernous performance
area allows for very complex and dimensional stage pictures
and chorus movement dimensional stage pictures and chorus
movement that is often thrilling in its scale and dexterity.
Although James Stanley's Oedipus and especially Anne DeAcetis'
Antigone are strong, the main reason to see this show is
the ensemble-driven directorial conception rather than the
There are moments, such as when a microphone drops from the
ceiling, that the show seems a bit too much like Akalaitis
redux. And Mark Ulrich's Creon is so lacking in tragic stature
that his appalling fate does not entirely sustain our interest.
But Settle apparently is not so much interested
in the political, societal dimension of these plays than
their psychological and personal implications. It's a valid
choice and this is an involving and exciting-work from a
very talented young director.
- Chris Jones -
New City, March 25, 1999
Amid a menacing crunch of stones underfoot,
Thirteenth Tribe opens its duo of Sophocles tragedies with
a striking visual pastiche of bound women giving birth to
stillborn babies and the laughter of children suddenly stifled
by a vast, echoing cacophony. Welcome to the world of plague-ridden
Thebes, ruled and nearly damned by Oedipus the King. Beautifully
adapted by Nicholas Rudall, Oedipus and its bitter sequel
Antigone are the very roots of drama.
This staging sweeps one into the heart of the
story’s darkness; a scene where Antigone walks to her
death in a stone-throwing mob is inspired. Director Joanna
Settle creates a whole that is rich, disturbing and darkly
fascinating – marking Thirteenth Tribe as a new company
that bears close watching.
- Catey Sullivan -
Chicago Sun-Times, March
The first thing you hear upon entering the
vast, garage like space where Thirteenth Tribe Theatre Company
is formidably staging two classic Greek tragedies is the
sound of your own feet treading on gravel. The unsettling
noise serves as a subtle but ominous warning that the natural
order is about to get a good shaking up.
A tightly linked double bill, Blood Line: The
Oedipus/Antigone Story, has been shrewdly cast and incisively
directed by Joanna Settle. It features a new translation
that is at once elegant, crystal-clear, poetic and unaffectedly
modern. And in the seamless blending of its architectonic
design, its piercing soundscape and its immaculate staging,
Blood Line manages to be both remarkably accessible and fully
alive with ritualistic power.
Settle uses the Viaduct space to stunning effect,
whether deploying her fine 10-person chorus (deftly choreographed
by Ginger Farley) as a threatening army or a frightened citizenry,
or using giant industrial doors as the gateway to the palace
through which Antigone walks on her way to death. Michael
E. Downs’ spare but emblematic set, with four great
ramped stairways and white period chairs for the chorus,
expertly defines the arena.
- Hedy Weiss -
Gay Chicago Magazine,
April 12, 1999
2,500 years later, the stories of lust, devotion,
incest and madness resonate with newfound dynamics in rethought
adaptations by Nicholas Rudall, realized with an absorbing
brilliance by director Joanna Settle in a rich and visually
stunning production by Thirteenth Tribe.
Settle, working with Rudall’s bold and
streamlined text and a team of visionary designers, creates
a rare production that is both a technical marvel and solidly
Once you enter, the imagery and power of Blood
Line – if for no other reason than the sight of Antigone
walking out its doors into the night amid a hailstorm of
rocks – wraps itself around you like a boa constrictor
and refuses to let go.
- Jeff Rosen -
Chicago Reader, April
Combining ambient hums, clicks, drones, and
a variety of multi-layered sonic washes, Messing has scored
nearly every minute of the show. Yet his work never intrudes
on the action, instead suggesting subtextual contours and
providing a subtle counterpoint to even straightforward moments.
He keeps us on our toes even if we’ve read the play
dozens of times.
The chorus, whether acting as courtiers, advisers
or simple gossips, under Settle’s direction they appear
to scrutinize the lofty protagonists’ every move, even
breaking into applause now and again. It’s an ingenious
solution to the declamatory nature of Sophoclean drama; of
course the protagonists are always giving speeches, because
they’re always on public display.
- Justin Hayford -
March 25, 1999
James Stanley is a young Oedipus, cocky enough
to think the truth can never hurt him. It’s the right
pride to deliver a fine fall. Like father, like daughter:
Anne DeAcetis’ rebel self-destructs with a righteousness
that impresses and intimidates.
Moving with quicksilver efficiency, the disciplined
22-member ensemble turn the theatre’s vast, pebble-strewn
arena into a killing field.
- Lawrence Bommer -
Copley News Service,
March 21, 1999
Director Joanna Settle is the co-star of the
evening along with Rudall. Settle has orchestrated her ensemble
with a blend of naturalism and stylized body movement, never
allowing the production to turn quaint or artificial. The
plays may be ancient but their impact is immediate.
This is Greek drama for today, no masks and
no togas. But the production’s vividly theatrical and
intellectual grasp of the plays makes Sophocles truly come
- Dan Zeff -
Tribune, March 19, 1999
LINE: The Oedipus/Antigone Story