Existential Void

Greek tragedy takes on a French twist

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Antigone
By Jean Anouilh
Connelly Theater
220 East 4th Street
212-982-3995

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Gus Kaikkonen and Phoenix Theatre Ensemble have mounted a scrupulous production of Anouilh's version of Antigone. A verbose and curiously conflicted script, though, leaves the experience more like reading an essay about Antigone than confronting the yawning horror of existence. This World War II–era refashioning of Sophocles' great meditation on private virtue and public power resolutely transforms King Creon and his nemesis of a niece into Left Bank denizens. Like good existentialists, the two race to declare the absurdity of their competing obligations to divine law and civic order, making their agon less a conflict of values than a test of wills. Frankly, Creon seems to end up with the better end of the argument. There's always been a touch of purist fanaticism about Antigone, and once Anouilh abstracts away the substance of her resistance, her furious denunciation of Creon's political calculations starts to look both petulant and dangerous. She's further undercut by a silly subplot that pits her against her sister Ismene. As Antigone, Kelli Holsopple balances fierceness and tender vulnerability. Joseph Menino's Creon is imposing, though he receives the news of his family's destruction as though he'd found out his chariot was impounded. But like Anouilh's later Becket, this Antigone is better suited these days to the classroom than the stage.

 
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