The tragedy of Sophocles’ Antigone is that both she and her enemy are right. Antigone wants to bury her disgraced brother, Polynices, while her uncle, King Creon, wants to rule fairly and quell a civil war. Unfortunately, in Jean Anouilh’s version of the story (now playing in a new translation by Robertson Dean at A Noise Within in Pasadena), Creon (Eric Curtis Johnson) is right but Antigone (Emily James) comes off as rash and impetuous.
Dean’s translation keeps Anouilh’s dark humor alive, but his staging (Dean also directs) is occasionally obtuse. James’ feisty heroine is hungry for life—and death—but her poetic style of speaking hampers her message, dragging out the play’s beginning.
Johnson’s Creon is more rational, and his presence grounds the show once he faces off against Antigone about halfway through the 90-minute play. From then on, the story races to its inevitable conclusion, foretold in the prologue by the Chorus (Inger Tudor).
Though it’s a tragedy, Dean’s Antigone soars in its comic moments, and nails many of the dramatic beats. But while Tudor’s Chorus decries melodrama in favor of tragedy, the play often stumbles into melodrama, to the discredit of the story and the audience.
A Noise Within, 3352 E. Foothill Blvd., Pasadena; through Nov. 20. (626) 356-3100, anoisewithin.org.