In the face of last week's horrific events, it's tempting to brush aside the performing arts as trivial. But in the 20th century, art -- and theatre in particular -- has helped us deal with issues like global annihilation or fascism in ways that go beyond headlines. Here are several plays -- many written in response to specific world events yet still relevant -- that show us the dark side of humanity and the demons we face.
ANTIGONE (1944) -- Jean Anouilh penned this take on Sophocles' classic during the German occupation of France, and though the second world war isn't mentioned, the piece is a thinly veiled attack on the puppet Vichy government. The themes -- law, freedom, family and political protest -- evoke the moral complexities of the 20th century.
THE LESSON (1951) -- A mild professor turns murderous dictator and puts on a swastika armband to gain courage and assuage his guilt in Eugene Ionesco's chilling absurdist theatre piece.
WAITING FOR GODOT (1953) -- Samuel Beckett's quintessential statement of modern angst and loneliness focuses on two hopeful men anticipating a visit -- and maybe salvation -- from the never-seen Godot. Susan Sontag mounted a version in 90s wartorn Sarajevo.
ENDGAME (1957) -- Beckett forces us to confront life's bleakness in this look at a blind man, a servant and an elderly couple living in a pair of trash cans. This post-apocalyptic vision of power and loss is surely a metaphor for global destruction in the atomic age.
THE CRUCIBLE (1958) -- Arthur Miller wrote his classic about the Salem witch hunt in response to the rabid anti-communist furor and paranoia stoked by Senator Joseph McCarthy.
THE ARCHITECT AND THE EMPEROR OF ASSYRIA (1965) -- Blending Robinson Crusoe and Godot, anti-fascist Spanish playwright Francisco Arrabal parachutes a civilized man onto an island inhabited by a single native and, through their games and role reversals, looks at 20th-century fixations on isolation, control and love.