Vestments of the Gods

Theater, Drama
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Vestments of the Gods
Photograph: Michael Hull
Vestments of the Gods

With a name like Thebes Street Elementary, it’s no wonder that a school’s Halloween festivities take a dark turn in Vestments of the Gods. Writer Owen Panettieri’s adaptation of Antigone is a clever (if sometimes heavy-handed) examination of the thoughtlessness that can allow problems to fester into tragedy. Casting a wide net on such social issues as censorship, bullying and workplace discrimination, the play often has an After-School Special feel, and its primary antagonist is a conservative straw man: an odious PTA president (Broadway veteran Jennifer Cody, deliciously viperish) who bears the brunt of Panettieri’s social criticism. Yet the production transcends the script’s weaknesses, thanks to Joey Brenneman’s savvy and sensitive direction, and a truly excellent ensemble led by Erica Diaz as the sixth-grade heroine. Jaunty songs by Panettieri and composer David Carl, sung by a convincingly adolescent Greek chorus, provide effective counterpoint for the debate-driven scenes, while Erin Michelle Routh’s costumes offer a range of witty, homespun Halloween getups. Greek tragedy isn’t known for its subtlety, but tricks and treats help the medicine go down.—Austin Ruffer

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