The word “adaptation” can mean many different things. A production of a play that shifts time periods to make for interesting costuming but doesn’t do much to alter the story is still fundamentally the original play.
In a case like writer/director Jack Bourgeois’ version of the ancient Greek tragedy Antigone, the source material is used as a jumping off point to create what is arguably an original work, with original dialogue, and an original take on the meaning of the story. Bourgeois is, for better or worse, mostly better, the co-author with Sophocles.
The classic tale is the end of the long and bloody Oedipus cycle. Antigone’s brothers have both died, after waging a civil war for their father’s crown. When their uncle Creon comes to power, he vindictively decrees that the rebellious brother Polyneices go unburied. Antigone objects passionately to this act of desecration and launches a rhetorical rebellion against her uncle.
In Bourgeois’ version, the personal becomes political, set in the 1960s and featuring an explicitly feminist dimension. We begin in 1989, with a young Reporter (Walls Trimble) interviewing Koufax (Radu Viduva) Creon’s (Scott Olson) former police chief.
We flash back to 1964, with Creon taking office. Olson’s Creon drips with arrogance and condescension for those he regards as his social inferiors, notably women and young people.
He’s a nonetheless admirably complex villain who genuinely believes the autocratic order he represents is best for the people.
Antigone (Casey Wortmann) becomes the leader of her generation’s revolt against oppression. The clothes, the set, the music etc. are all faithful recreations of the famously turbulent sixties. Antigone talks about how television has brought war into people’s living rooms ala Vietnam. The characters are monotheists, “Jesus Christ” being a common exclamation.
All of this occasionally hits a bit too hard on the nose, but for the most part it’s a well written and beautifully acted exploration of the moments in which people find themselves being pushed too far. Such moments are those that spark revolutions.