In its world premiere, Robertson Dean’s sleek English language adaptation of Jean Anouilh’s “Antigone” sets us solidly in wartime France and yet reminds us that the problems hark back to the time of Sophocles, who wrote the original play. Anouilh’s purpose was not to look at the past, but at the present and the problems of loyalty during times of war.
As played by Emily James, Antigone is “a dark stubborn little thing whose family never took her seriously.” Yet the matters in this 90-minute intermissionless play are deeply serious and perhaps more keenly felt in lands that have been the staging grounds for deadly military battles.
Dean once played Oedipus Rex at A Noise Within and that Greek king of Thebes is recalled here. Oedipus was both the son and the murderer of Laius. He unknowingly married his mother, Jocasta, making him the father and the sibling of Polynices, Eteocles, Antigone and Ismene. Polynices and Eteocles were to share the throne left to them by Oedipus, however, things do not go well and they kill each other during the battle. This all happens before the opening of the play.
Now Creon has become king and favoring Etecloes, he proclaims that the corpse of Polynices will not be buried. According to the beliefs of the time, the soul of Polynices was doomed to wander the world without rest.
When the play opens, there is the sound of an airplane and an explosion and from under things covered with sheets, we hear the plaintive sound of a song that reminds us of France. Lights come on from under the sheets. When we meet the sister, Antigone (Emily James), she is determined to bury him despite the pleas and warnings of her sister Ismene (Kyla Garcia) and her old nurse maid Nunu (Lorna Raver). She readies herself for death, breaking off her engagement with Haemon (Brick Patrick), the son of Creon, without explanation. “This world was never meant to hold a husband of Antigone,” she declares. Yet you know when someone’s father kills one’s ex-fiancée, there is bound to be dramatic family dysfunction that would merit time on Jerry Springer.
The actors are in modern dress. James is barefoot and wears a dark brown dress that at first appears black. She has a dusty coat on over that. James is a small-boned woman, but she is fierce and defiant before Eric Curtis Johnson’s brown suited Creon. The action takes place on a faux marble floor in what seems to be a large room closed off due to disuse, waiting for better times, times that will not come during this play.
In mythology, there was a curse upon the house of Laius, King of Thebes because when his thrown was usurped, he sought refuge with Pelops, the king of Pisa, but Laius betrayed his host by kidnapping the son of Pelops, Chrysippus, and raping him. The curse followed Laius and a prediction was made that he would be killed by his son who would then marry his mother. In attempting to prevent this prediction, Laius actually helped fulfill it. The curse then is passed on to Oedipus and his children by his mother/wife Jocasta. Antigone is part of that tragic cycle.
Anouilh adapted Sophocles’ “Antigone” in 1943, as a criticism of the Vichy government. When it was performed in 1944, France was still occupied by Nazi Germany and under its censorship. Antigone and her resistance of authority thus represented the French Resistance while Creon represented the acceptance of authority without a particular guiding ideology but a more pragmatic view of life. In this production, instead of a chorus, there is a narrator (Inger Tudor).
Dean’s direction is crisp and the language is easy to follow. While we might be in the midst of a Greek tragedy, Dean reminds us of this play’s modern implications in all wars.
Jean Anouilh’s Antigone
World Premiere, Translated and Directed by Robertson Dean
A Noise Within
3352 East Foothill Blvd.
Pasadena, CA 91107
- Sunday, October 4 at 2:00 and 7:00 pm
- (Conversations after 2:00 pm)
- Saturday, October 24 at 2:00 and 8:00 pm
- Thursday, October 29 at 7:30 pm
- Sunday, November 8 at 2:00 and 7:00 pm
- Saturday, November 14 at 2:00 and 8:00 pm
- Thursday, November 19 at 7:30 pm
- Friday, November 20 at 8:00 pm
For more information visit ANoiseWithin.org or call (626) 356-3100, extension 1
- Single Tickets from $44.00;
- Student Rush with ID an hour before performance $20.00
- Groups (10 or more): Adults groups start at $30/ticket; student groups start at $18/ticket.