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Paulanne Simmons

Irish Rep Revives "The Burial at Thebes"

"The Burial at Thebes"
Directed by Charlotte Moore
Irish Repertory Theatre
Dr2 Theatre
103 East 15 Street
Opened Jan. 24, 2016
Tues at 7pm, Wed at 3pm & 8pm, Thu at 7pm, Fri at 8pm, Sat at 3pm & 8pm, Sun at 3pm
Tickets: $70, Student and group rates are available, 212.727-2737
Closes March 6 , 2016
Reviewed by Paulanne Simmons Jan 22, 2016

Paul O'Brien as Creon and Winsome Brown as Eurydice. Photo by Carol Rosegg.

"The Burial at Thebes," Seamus Heaney’s translation of Sophocles’ "Antigone," was commissioned by Ireland's renowned Abbey Theatre to commemorate its centenary in 2004. That was not long after the American invasion of Iraq, when Sophocles’ questioning the limits of earthly power seemed especially relevant.

These days we are still involved in the Middle East. But now, many of the problems engendered by endless wars have come to the doorstep of western nations as hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees seek asylum far away from their war-torn country. And Sophocles’ message is more relevant than ever.

Katie Fabel as Ismene and Rebekah Brockman as Antigone.Photo by Carol Rosegg.


But relevancy is not all that makes the Irish Repertories revival so enthralling. To start, the production, directed by the venerable Charlotte Moore, features a defiant and passionate Rebekah Brockman as Antigone, who disobeys the edict of her uncle, Creon, the ruler of Thebes, and buries her brother Polyneices, even though he has been deemed a traitor whose body should receive no rites of urial.

Paul O’Brien as Creon, Robert Langdon Lloyd as Tiresias, and Colin Lane as the Guard..Photo by Carol Rosegg.

Brockman heads a fine supporting cast with Katie Fabel as her more timid sister, Ismene, and Paul O’Brien as Creon, the inflexible ruler of Thebes who brings great suffering to himself and others by defying God’s laws. Winsome Brown is particularly moving as Creon’s wife, Eurydice, whose anguish is all the more poignant as it is underserved.

The simple set, consisting of ropes that resemble a ship’s riggings, creates a feeling of universal time and place, but lends no urgency to this production. And there is a certain inconsistency in accents that sometimes makes us wonder whether we are in Ireland, Thebes or a theater in New York City.

But Moore has pretty much let the play speak for itself. And always Heaney’s towering prose and Sophocles’ poetic voice triumph.



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