The Storm Theatre Company begins its season seismically with Jean Anouilh’s 1944 update of Sophocles’ classic tragedy “Antigone,” an electric study of the clash between the personal and political and the casualties that can ensue.
The company, nestled in the basement of the Church of Notre Dame on the corner of 114th Street and Morningside Drive, aims to showcase a mix of classic and new plays—anything, as Associate Artistic Director Stephen Day said, “that gives us the opportunity to explore a greater dimension of humanity than we normally experience in our day-to-day lives.”
Anouilh’s “Antigone” was meant to not only offer a modernized take on the classic but also to operate as a subtle piece of antiwar resistance in the time of Nazi censorship, with messages against bureaucratic cruelty surreptitiously knit into a work famously attended by members of the very group it indicted. Storm Theatre’s stark production stays true to the piece’s resultant heart-stopping urgency, exploring one woman’s struggle against arbitrary brutality.
Kick Kennedy, who plays the tough and tenacious protagonist—and whose quiet intensity anchors the show—said she understands both the viewpoints of her character and King Creon, Antigone’s austere uncle, whose steadfast commitment to the law forces him to pass a brutal edict that Antigone struggles against throughout the play. Kennedy, the politically passionate granddaughter of Robert F. Kennedy, said that the query of who wins in the play—uncle or niece—is an “unanswerable question.”
“That’s what the play hinges on—that you can’t really answer that,” she said.
“I love Antigone because she doesn’t settle,” said Kennedy enthusiastically. “She represents the untainted inner child, and I think it’s really beautiful. She comes from this crazy family, she’s a child of incest, but her vision of life is still pure, even though she was handed a really dirty deck of cards.”
Michael Early, who combats Kennedy with poise and gravitas in an intense conversational fencing match as Creon, finds Anouilh’s approach to traditional tragedy fascinating, citing a line that asserts that “in a tragedy, nothing is in doubt and everyone’s destiny is known. That makes for tranquility.”
“He didn’t want this part,” Early said about Creon’s role as the villain of the piece. “I want her [Antigone] to marry my son, to have grandchildren—that’s what I want. But I’m just doing my job.”
Putting on a Greek tragedy in a way that is fresh and relevant to the 21st century is a tricky undertaking, but the Storm Theatre Company is confident that Antigone is a must-watch for millennials.
“Antigone does something that’s very selfless and idealistic,” said Director of Developement Robert Carroll. “She decides she’s going to stand for a principle, for her brother instead of her.”
Early agrees that “Antigone” is a crucial piece to perform in our era.
“In the age of the Internet, with our attention spans that keep getting reduced down to a nanosecond,” he said, it’s enriching “to be able to sit and listen and be a part of a rhetorical argument.”
“Antigone” runs through Feb. 15 at the Church of Notre Dame, at 405 West 114th St. Tickets cost $15 for Columbia students.