Sunday, July 8, 2018

Antigone in Harlem

Last night I saw Classical Theatre of Harlem's production of Antigone, which sets the classic Sophocles play in an urban wasteland of the near future.

Alexandra King plays the title character, who refuses to compromise on the burial of her brother, Polynices. She isn't afraid to tell others exactly what she thinks, whether by insulting her sister Ismene (played by Ava McCoy) or spitting into the face of her uncle, King Creon.

In many ways, Creon is the protagonist of the play, not Antigone. Ty Jones (the company's founder who also played the title role in CTH's production of Macbeth in 2016) plays Creon with a fitting stateliness. We believe his growing rage both when he speaks to Antigone, and when he addresses his own son Haemon (played by Avon Haughton), who timidly tries to get his father to change his mind.

Though CTH does not credit an adaptor or translator, their website claims the piece was inspired by the adaptation by Paul Roche. Occasionally, the production introduces anachronisms, including some rather hysterical references to contemporary Harlem, but for the most part it sticks close to the original. One exception is that Creon's wife Eurydice (played by Adaku Okpi) has a slightly expanded role. This was a welcome change, given the gravitas Okpi brought to each of her scenes, and I would have liked to have seen even more of her.

It's great to see Greek drama performed outdoors the way it was intended, so come out to the Richard Rogers Amphitheater where the show is playing for free until July 30th.