Antigone is among the most famous characters in theater history, but her story’s not set in stone. A new production puts an intriguingly different spin on Sophocles’ classic play.
In “Antigone,” the thrillingly brilliant and often hilarious ERA/SATE collaboration running through Aug. 31, the Greek tragedy has been tweaked so that it’s not only an inquiry into the complexities of human nature and the consequences of civil disobedience, but also a forum for contemporary social commentary, pop culture references and stand-up comedy.
And there’s not just one Antigone, but seven — played by Taleesha Caturah, Laura Hulsey, Miranda Jagels-Félix, Alicen Moser, Ellie Schwetye, Victoria Thomas and Natasha Toro with passion and panache. With its fluid, virtually choreographic staging, the show brings to mind Ntozake Shange’s “for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf.”
But “Antigone” is less concerned with movement than with morality, approaching the tale of a woman who stands up for the dignity of her late brother — even if it means her own death — as an analog to the challenges facing citizens in a politically divided America.
Based on a script incorporating contributions from students at St. Louis University, a playwriting workshop for incarcerated women and existing texts, “Antigone” starts out as a whirlwind of theatrical invention. The show directed by Lucy Cashion — and subtitled “requiem per Patriarchus” — comes across as nothing so much as a hip-hop remix of a theatrical warhorse, with shoutouts to everything from David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” to Steven Spielberg.
Drummer Marcy Ann Wiegert’s onstage arrival signals a stricter adherence to the source material, but the hugely talented cast is up to the challenge. Still, the show’s greatest strength is its irreverence. Of particular note is Schwetye, who demonstrates impressive comic timing.
Not everything works, including a few lapses into self-indulgence. But its sheer ambition qualifies “Antigone” as a must-see for true theater fans.