Integrity vs. tyranny
Take a war that’s becoming less popular by the minute, in spite of the administration’s claims of success and promises of victories. Throw in a leader who seems to mismanage at every turn. Then add a grieving woman with an attitude who refuses to be dismissed.
No, not Cindy Sheehan and Camp Casey. Set the clock back, oh, about 2,500 years. River Stage brings Antigone, Sophocles’ play of integrity in the face of tyranny, into the present with an inventive and energetic staging that highlights how there is really “nothing new under the sun” (that’s from Ecclesiastes, only slightly younger than this play).
Kreon (Gregg Koski), the king of Thebes, has waged a war on the neighboring city of Argos, promising glory, riches and security to his followers. But things haven’t gone too well; the troops gain ground only with incredible loss of life. In this adaptation by Bertolt Brecht, the emphasis remains as Sophocles had it originally: on the costs both of standing up to power and of keeping one’s head down.
Antigone (played with steel in her spine by Rosalia Seyman) performs funeral rites for her dead brother, whom Kreon has accused of desertion and ordered to lie unburied. Of course, Kreon condemns her to death, but as the play unfolds, it becomes apparent that this particular brutality is only the tip of the iceberg. The war is a quagmire, the promised plunder a myth and Kreon’s leadership a bitter joke. He is confronted by his own son and the blind seer Tiresias (in a fantastic turn by Sonny Alforque) but ignores their warnings.
In director Frank Condon’s expert staging, the elders of Thebes (Colleen Lacy, John Hopkins, Earl Victorine, Robin Albee-Kesich and Michael Garabedian) aptly demonstrate the sort of denial seen all too often in political leaders, as well as the concomitant unwillingness to stand up to bullying. Some of the most effective pieces are theatrical tricks (business suits instead of robes for the elders, Kreon’s delivery of his rousing speech while wearing a flight suit), but rather than forcing political connections, they point subtly to the power of the play’s language.
What makes this play so important and timely is that fact which hasn’t changed in two and a half millenia: Speaking truth to power requires, in addition to courage, both truth and speech. Of both, Antigone has plenty.