You could say that Gamut Theatre, the tiny Roanoke drama company that specializes in avant-garde plays, has dug up a real golden oldie to bring in the fall.
Old as in ancient Greece old.
They’re performing “Antigone,” one of the three surviving plays by Sophocles about the troubled reign of King Oedipus in the city of Thebes. “Antigone” takes place after Oedipus’ death and chronicles the tragic final days of the title character, Oedipus’ daughter.
It’s a curious choice for a company that usually favors Harold Pinter or Edward Albee. I can personally recall reading “Antigone” aloud in junior high — I played the role of Oedipus’ tyrannical heir, King Creon, whose decisions regarding Antigone’s fate set in motion some surprising, unpleasant consequences for his own family.
As usual, there’s a twist to Gamut’s approach. The version of “Antigone” they’ve chosen is a modern adaptation written by French playwright Jean Anouilh while France was under occupation by the Nazis.
“The minute I read this adaptation of ‘Antigone,’ it felt entirely relevant, poignant and modern to me,” artistic director Miriam Frazier wrote in an email. “The play deals with issues that I think this country is struggling with right now. For example, what does it mean to govern people? Where do personal values and morals fit into the governing of a society?”
Anouilh was careful not to make overt political statements in his script, “but yet there are lines that could not ring more true in today’s political climate,” Frazier wrote.
In a particularly prescient passage, she points out, King Creon remarks that rulers have better things to do than check their own birth certificates when someone questions their parentage.