Although “Antigone” has Greek roots, and the Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre’s new production was adapted by a French playwright during World War II, the play didn’t actually start to click for director Karen Paisley until she looked at it with American eyes.
Specifically, looking at the title protagonist as an American icon.
“The Statue of Liberty has always been an iconic figure for me,” Paisley said. “In my imagination, if the Statue of Liberty were a teenager and walked out of the sea to stand on the land, she would be Antigone — because some things are worth fighting to save, and some are worth dying for.”
Therefore, the MET’s version of “Antigone,” opening Sept. 14, is a far cry from the Syria-set version Paisley had first imagined or its ancient Greek origins. She calls it the “American Antigone,” complete with teenagers in hoodies, basketball, M-16s and chalk drawings.
While the togas and swords of Sophocles’ original play are gone, the story is the same, about these children of the original mother-lover himself, Oedipus. After her brothers die in their battle for the throne, Antigone is torn between law and duty. She engages in a battle of wills with her uncle Creon, the ruler of Thebes, who has decreed that one brother’s body must go unburied. She chooses to defy his edict and give him the dignity of a burial — accepting the criminal consequences of doing so.
“Antigone” kicks off the new season for the MET, which includes several reinventions of other classic tales: Shakespeare’s “Cymbeline” (another exploration into the myths…