ANTIGONE: INSURGENCY (SOPHOCLES REVISITED) written and directed by Adam Seelig (One Little Goat). At the Walmer Centre (188 Lowther). To November 25. Pwyc-$22. 416-915-0201. Rating: NNNN
Here's a reminder that the old stories are often the best stories.
Adam Seelig 's post-9/11 update and reflection on Sophocles ' tale of the individual versus the state, Antigone , is frequently riveting theatre, its arguments touching the mind while its emotions engage the heart.
Writer/director Seelig, in New York when the Twin Towers were hit, talks about terrorism's roots in democracy, drawing parallels between ancient Athens and contemporary imperialist states that espouse democracy yet force other nations to do their bidding.
The play itself, as in the original, pits Antigone ( Cara Ricketts ) against her uncle Creon ( Earl Pastko ), with a narrator ( Richard Harte ) also playing the sometimes comic guard who arrests the young Antigone when she violates Creon's orders not to bury her brother, the "terrorist" Polynices.
This hour-long piece, splendidly performed and inventively directed, is filled with strong images, passionate characters whose motives are neither black nor white and palpable theatrical tension, even though we know the story's outcome.
Drawing on such diverse elements as choral moments from different translations of the play, speeches by Rudy Giuliani and Pierre Trudeau, the song New York, New York, the creative differences between men and women and a litany of the sacrificed, Seelig looks at the tale using a complex framework.
But he also provides a 30-minute introduction in which Harte becomes the playwright's stand-in, recounting his thoughts on September 11 and a gradual decision about how to live with and understand the events of that day and, in fact, the new world it created.
Though well written and engagingly delivered at high speed, this postmodern speech seems to me to be just what the text says it isn't: an explicitly political piece of theatre that puts its politics before its dramatics. Despite the cleverness of the writing, I felt lectured to; the monologue doesn't make use of the subtleties that emotionally based theatre (like the play proper) can provide. Similarly, an unnecessary epilogue repeats what the play has just shown us.
Jackie Chau 's set is a standout, a red floor and ordinary white but blood-spattered furniture, the latter put to striking use at the end of the show.