The burial at Thebes

Seamus Heany’s version of Antigone, Sophocles’ classic tragedy about the fate of the blood of Oedipus and the tragedy of Thebes, is an attempt to bring it into the realm and grasp of popular culture. Frankly, I believe this is a loss of effort, because on one hand the spirit of tragedy of the Greek democracies itself is rejected by modern democracies, while on the other the light bearing of Heany’s translation is not targeted at those who love Greek tragedy already. On top of that Heany makes an attempt to stretch his cry for popular attention even further, by emphasizing an interpretation of Antigone, or rather Creon, which takes aim at Bush’ war policies in Iraq. A warm welcome seemed guaranteed, Heany must have thought, a combination of anti-Bushian political arguments and a classic Greek play, except the thought itself was too simple to arouse any interest. This I believe is the tragedy of fame and name in our times, that simple thoughts are placed on a pedastal, flattering the thinker.

The Handcart Ensemble played ‘The burial at Thebes’ by Heany at the Salvation Army’s Theater 315. This small theater off-broadway at 47th Street and 8th Avenue, in a property owned by the Salvation Army attracts a small crowd and has an intimate stage. Of course the text is largely Sophocles’ and the revisions are done skillfully enough not to be disturbing, so not too much can make a performance dreadful. The performance was not spectacular, but the choice to work with a chorus and masked actors was a delightful attempt to revive some of the old Greek theater.

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