antigone by Jean Anouilh, translated, adapted and directed by Sarah Phillips, with Christine Brubaker, Paul Braunstein, Richard Greenblatt, Deborah Drakeford and Michael Healey. Presented by Red Red Rose at the Great Hall (1087 Queen West). Runs to July 1, Tuesday-Saturday (and June 24) at 8 pm, matinee Sunday 2:30 pm. $15-$20, Sunday matinee pwyc. 416-463-1841. Rating: NNN
forget david young's clout or Athol Fugard's The Island. Director Sarah Phillips's newly translated and adapted version of Jean Anouilh's Antigone is the political play of the season. The story of the young Antigone (Christine Brubaker), who buries her dead brother in defiance of the edict of her uncle King Creon (Richard Greenblatt), raises still-relevant questions of morality, freedom, law and anarchy. These themes battle it out onstage, with Phillips adding the provocative twist of having Antigone narrating her own doom as the chorus.
Phillips stages the play on a wide-open space at the Great Hall, allowing the actors room to pace and debate, which is what most of the play consists of. She's especially good at choreographing for two characters, with a turned back or a thrust jaw suggesting lots about power and defiance, oppression and compromise.
Richard Feren's sound design and Camellia Koo's costumes quickly evoke the second world war (Anouilh wrote the play during the German occupation of France), but it's unclear why only one character has a French accent.
If there are problems with the production, they're the wavering tone and Greenblatt's uneven performance. A good comic actor, he's limited at drama, relying on bulging eyes and a soft FM radio DJ voice to convey seriousness.
Brubaker, though, is a revelation, clear and all-knowing as the chorus, luminous and impassioned as Antigone.