KPBS AIRDATE: April 22, 2005
At one of San Diego’s smallest theaters, 6th @ Penn, a big, international double-header – a Greek tragedy and an Irish comedy. The classic is Sophocles’ “Antigone” and the contemporary comedy is “A Skull in Connemara,” by acclaimed English/Irish playwright, Martin McDonagh.
“Antigone” is considered one of the greatest tragedies ever written, successful from its first production in 441 B.C. The timeless play is particularly timely right now, as it concerns the conflict between moral conscience and government policy. The relevance is not lost on the politically astute translator, Marianne McDonald — or the gifted director, Delicia Turner Sonnenberg, who has the smiling tyrant Creon, King of Thebes, make a splashy entrance under a Greek-English banner that says “Mission Accomplished.”
Many excellent directorial touches, and a potent cast, energize this story of one woman’s ferocious defense of family in the face of a despotic leader who puts his law above the gods’. Creon only recants after the soothsayer Teiresias foretells his horrific fate. But by then it’s too late and the bodies pile up. As Antigone, Jennifer Eve Kraus starts out with a bit of macha Valley Girl up-speak, but winds up proud and powerful as she goes nobly off to her death. Sylvia M’Lafi Thompson is terrific as the blind Teiresias, otherworldly and unrecognizable, with vacant blue eyes and a beard. But it is Dale Morris’ smug, smirking Creon who takes the most profound emotional journey, and who shows that even the most impregnable fortress can crumble. The play has endured for 2500 years because it’s eternally relevant. See it as a classic or a cautionary tale, a story that questions the meaning of loyalty, piety, rigidity, self-righteousness, heroism, justice, treason and compromise. Read into it what you will.
Not much to read into “A Skull in Connemara,” though the mysteries of this town of grave secrets-and-lies unfold at a pulse-raising pace, under the direction of Forrest Aylsworth. The pitch-black comedy centers on Mick Dowd, excellently embodied by Charlie Riendeau, a crusty guy who did time for killing his wife in a drunk-driving accident seven years ago. Now he’s got a job digging up graves to make room for new cemetery occupants. This time, one of the skeletons belongs to his wife. And he’s dogged by a thick-headed teenage troublemaker (wonderfully portrayed by young Chris Bresky), a dim-witted cop, crisply played by Chris White, and their whiskey- and bingo-loving granny, the delightfully dour Grace Delaney. In McDonagh’s stark Irish landscape, people don’t band together against the harsh conditions; they turn on each other. And we watch with ghoulish glee.
So, whether you like your drama Greek or Gothic, there’s something for everyone any night of the week at 6th @ Penn.
©2005 Patté Productions Inc.