By Aria Socratous
NEW YORK – A merciless sun blazes over Thebes in Eftychia Loizides’ doom-steeped production of Sophocles’ Antigone, which opened on March 9 on Theatre Row in Manhattan. The play sold out for the performances on March 10th and 11th.
The enduring power of Ancient Greek tragedies to speak to us so directly almost 2,500 years after they were written on the other side of the Atlantic is one of the great wonders of civilization. The audience gets the feeling that it’s not just the ill-fated souls of Ancient Greece that this sun looks upon. In times of rapid changes concerning the whole Greek world, Sophocles’ work is still as charming as it is difficult to study. In this play, Sophocles teaches us about what remains constant through abrupt changes (Antigone) and what has changed its essence while keeping its appearance intact.
Creon has taken the thrown of Thebes. He has ruled that Polyneices, who fought and lost the battle of Seven Against Thebes, will not be given proper burial rights. As a loyal sister in mourning, Antigone breaks against Creon to fight for her brother’s honor as moral laws state it is his right. The results rattle the entire country, leaving Creon to choose between the law of the land and the law of his conscience.
The award-winning Italian actor Francesco Andolfi, in the role of Creon, undergoes a similarly persuasive metamorphosis. With his starkly expressive face, Andolfi begins splendidly. His acting was breathtaking and full of vigor in his portrayal of Creon, especially in communicating his complex personality.
Dori Levit as Antigone is single-minded, relentless, and almost fixated by the idea of death. Antigone, aware of the law and the punishment, plans to bury her brother anyway. This action strikes her as beautiful, partly because, unafraid, she will be doing what she enthusiastically believes to be Right. But partly also because she is entranced with the notion of embracing Polyneices forever in the world of death. Levit’s approach was modest and accurate.
Flavia Sgoifo is wonderfully watchful as Antigone’s sister, Ismene. Grief-stricken at Antigone’s prospects, she pleads to share the guilt and the punishment. Turned down by Antigone, she puts to Creon a powerful argument: surely he will not execute his son’s betrothed. Her love, compassion, courage, gentleness, and poise are beautiful, but the formula that might have saved the day does not occur to her. Sgoifo approached her role with vigor, determination, and strength.
Eftychia Loizides has intelligently reimagined the traditional Greek chorus (Anna Rak, Paulo Araujo, Kelsey Riker, Julie Gaarskjaer, Dori Levit, Lorenzo Possanza, and Kelsey Riker) by dividing its lines among almost all of the performers. This lends a precise and sometimes startling individuality to what are usually collective observations. And almost every aspect of the technical production feeds a holistic vision of a world blighted by its human inhabitants, then and now.
Loizides in the role of the prophet Tiresias speaking the Greek language was astonishing and provoked audience’s enthusiasm, admiration, and stirring of emotion.
At the end of the play, the director and the cast had a discussion with the audience which showed a great interest in Ancient Greek Tragedy, Ancient Greece, Democracy and Ancient Greek writers.
Antigone’s next performance will take place at the Queens Theatre on April 9th.