Belgian director Ivo van Hove, who has become known among New York theatergoers for staging strange, experimental productions of well-known plays at Brooklyn Academy of Music and New York Theatre Workshop, will come to Broadway this season with revivals of Arthur Miller’s “A View from the Bridge” and “The Crucible.”
But before he hits the Great White Way, Hove’s production of the Greek tragedy “Antigone,” led by the Oscar-winning French actress Juliette Binoche (“The English Patient”), has come to BAM following runs in Luxembourg and London.
The final segment of Sophocles’ “Oedipus” trilogy, “Antigone” depicts how the title character (Binoche) refuses to obey a governmental edict that her brother, who died while waging war against the state, be left to rot in the field without any burial rites.
Antigone debates with her uncle Kreon (Patrick O’Kane), the newly installed ruler, over whether the laws of the gods take priority over those of civil society. Since neither will compromise, Antigone is sentenced to die, and doom follows for Kreon.
Watching the play today, one can’t help but think of Kim Davis, the county clerk who cited her religious beliefs in an attempt to justify her refusal to issue marriage licenses to gay couples. In a program note, it is compared to the Charlie Hebdo attack and Malaysia Airlines Flight 17.
Hove works against its compelling and compact nature by slowing it down to an unbearable pace. Much of the dialogue is recited without emotion. The abstract design scheme, which contrasts a blazing sun and empty desert with a contemporary office and sofa, is intriguing but puzzling.
Binoche comes off as overly poised and removed from the rest of the cast, as if she is in her own world. Even more odd, she remains onstage even after Antigone’s death and speaks lines that are meant for the chorus.
If you go:
“Antigone” plays through Oct. 4 at the Harvey Theater at BAM. 651 Fulton St., Brooklyn. bam.org.