Prenzie presents complex moral dilemma

Posted Online: March 20, 2013, 9:53 am
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By Jonathan Turner, jturner@qconline.com
If you believe something is morally right but legally wrong, what would you do?

This is the central conflict of the title character inJean Anouilh's "Antigone," a moving adaptation of the classicGreek tragedy by Sophocles, opening Friday in a Prenzie Players production. The rebellious idealist Antigone and her rigid uncle, Creon, clash over the proper burial ofAntigone's brother, Polynices, who was killed in a civil war.

"I was fascinated with the Anouilh, because it was written in 1942, during the Second World War and the German occupation of France,"director Catie Osborn recently said of the French playwright. This version is much different than other adaptations of the 5th-century B.C. tragedy, "because no one is wrong," she said.

In the original, "Antigone is this powerful, right character and Creon is this villain, this horrible person," said Ms. Osborn, who directed Prenzie's "Complete Works of Shakespeare (Abridged)" last year, and directed at St. Ambrose University (from which she graduated in 2010).

"The way it's written, the audience is given a choice about who to side with," she said of the 1942 "Antigone." "The play doesn't take sides, and that's what I like most about this version. That's the most interesting thing about this play.Antigone represents the resistance and Creon represents the government."

"Greek tragedy as a whole has a tendency to have very one-note characters," Ms. Osborn said. "In this play, they are fully realized characters," and more complex. Anouilh "just made them real people," she noted. "It's really easy to write characters that are high and mighty and awesome. Antigone is kind of a brat at times; she's rude. Creon is much more sympathetic in this play."

Antigone's two brothers have been killed in the battle for Thebes, and one is considered a hero and given a ceremonial burial, where Polynices was the rebel and his corpse is left in the street to rot. Creon, the ruler, has executed anyone who is a threat to the state, and Antigone -- the daughter of Oedipus Rex -- faces a similar fate if she insists Polynices receive a proper burial (so his soul does not wander the earth forever).

"For Antigone, it is the right thing to do," said Jake Walker, who plays Creon. "The world is still almost childlishly black and white to her."

"For Creon, he gives the order -- if anyone is caught trying to bury him, they will be executed. When his niece does it, he does not want to execute his own niece," he said. "At the same time, if word gets out he made an exception for her, he is weak, and becomes a threat to the state."

"The battle of wits between them is the crux of the show," Mr. Walker said. "It's up to the audience who to side with."

"I liked how fleshed out all the characters are," he said. "I love the extended verbal battle between Antigone and Creon throughout.He is a powerful man, he is a leader, but this is nothing he ever sought out. The city fell into anarchy, and somebody had to take charge. To maintain order, he has had to do some terrible things -- things he's not personally proud of." But, Mr. Walker noted, no one is above the law.

Set in the present day, "Antigone"'s potent themes remain applicable today, Ms. Osborn said. "Prenzie's whole thing is that these shows are still relevant.I love directing for Prenzie -- the way that Prenzie works, the support that you get."

If you go

-- What: Prenzie Players' "Antigone"
-- When: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday (plus March 28-30) and 2 p.m. Sunday.
-- Where: Quad City Theatre Workshop, 1730 Wilkes Ave., Davenport.
-- Tickets: $10, available at the door, tickets@prenzieplayers.com, or 309-278-8426. For more information, visit prenzieplayers.com.


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