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‘Antigone in New York’ Opens off-Broadway

April 26, 1996

NEW YORK (AP) _ Polish emigre playwright Janusz Glowacki has a rare and wonderful ability to tell a tragic story, not diluting it, while making it absolutely hilarious.

Glowacki’s ``Antigone in New York″ opened Tuesday at the Vineyard Theater off-Broadway. It resets Sophocles’ ``Antigone″ among the homeless in Central Park. The situation is bleak, hope is raised and dashed and the ending is chilling. And it is a very, very funny play.

Sophocles’ ``Antigone″ is political as well as tragic. The two sons of Oedipus quarreled over who should be king of Thebes. The one who lost led an invasion and the brothers killed each other in battle. Creon, their uncle, the new ruler, passed a law that the king should be buried but his brother should not.

Their sister Antigone believed in a higher law regarding rights of the dead and determined to bury her brother even if she died for it.

In ``Antigone in New York,″ Sasha (Steven Skybell) and Flea (Ned Eisenberg) live on a park bench. Flea is a quick-talking, funny con man. He wants Sasha to sell a kidney; he’ll take a commission.

Anita (Priscilla Lopez) laments the death of Pauly, who she believes loved her. He has been taken away from her, to be buried in Potters Field. ``God wants me to bury him,″ she says.

She has $19.50 and for that money the two men go where pine boxes are stacked, ready for transport to Potters Field. Sasha does the work of prying open the boxes Flea chooses.

They get a corpse (the actor is uncredited) through the subway and back to the park and, during a blackout, buried.

Skybell invests Sasha with dignity as he gradually reveals that he was an artist in Russia. He has a letter inviting him back. He and Anita plan to go.

At the end of the play, a policeman, played with smiling menace by Monti Sharp, faces the audience and explains the government policy of sweeping the homeless out of the park. He says a chain-link fence was erected to keep them out. A woman hanged herself on it and was taken to Potters Field.

There was a rumor a body was buried in the park, he adds, but a grave wasn’t found.

Michael Mayer directed. William Barclay designed the set. ``Antigone in New York″ was first produced at Arena Stage in Washington, D.C., in 1993.

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