By: Paulanne Simmons
May 8, 2018: It is believed that Sophocles’ tragedy, Antigone, the third of his three Theban plays, was written in 441 BC, at a time when the playwright was appointed one of ten generals to lead a military expedition against Samos. But Sophocles makes no comment on the specific imperialist ambitions of Athens. In fact, the play is not particularly political, focussing mainly on character and morality by pointing out the inherent danger of autocratic leadership in a democracy.
The Seeing Place Theater presents an updated version of these themes in Brandon Walker’s new play, The People Vs Antigone, directed by the author. The play puts Antigone (Sabrina Schlegel-Mejia); her uncle, Creon (Alan Altschuler), the ruler of Thebes, and his wife Eurydice (Isa Goldberg); her cousin (and fiancé), Haemon (Joshua George); and Antigone’s sister Ismene (Gaia Visnar) in the 21st century. Creon wants to control the media. Ismene thwarts him through a video captured on her cell phone. Haemon likes to party.
Aside from the above, the story has not changed much. Antigone’s brothers, Eteocles and Polyneices, have killed each other during the civil war they initiated. Creon has decreed that only Eteocles will be buried, while Polyneices’ body will remain on the battlefield where it will rot and be eaten by animals.
Antigone buries her brother in defiance of Creon, but Ismene, more obedient, or perhaps more cowardly, refuses to help. Antigone’s rebellion puts Haemon in a tough spot. Should he obey his father or follow his heart? As for Eurydice, although she spends much of her time placidly knitting, her heart goes out to all these wayward but innocent children who don’t seem to know how to behave themselves.
In this version there is no chorus and no Tiresias, the blind prophet, which is a pity, because they are the voices of moral authority in the original play. Instead we have a Guard (Clinton Powell) whose main function is to deliver bad news. Which keeps him pretty busy.
The People Vs Antigone is part of The Seeing Place Theater’s Whistleblower Series (the other two plays are Doug Wright’s I Am My Own Wife and My Name Is Rachel Corrie, edited by Viner and Alan Rickman), which examines what happens when an activist reveals some of the unpleasant truths about our society… a thankless but noble effort.
The Seeing Place Theater presents The People VS. Antigone through May 13, 2018 at the Paradise Factory, 64 E. 4th Street, NYC. Tickets are $20 general admission ($30 Premium Seating, $10 5@50%) and are available at http://www.TheSeeingPlace.com. Photos: Russ Rowland