Book Report: Another Antigone by A.R. Gurney, Jr. (1988)

This is a full evening play with four characters: a professor of Greek tragedies who tends to portray things in an Athens vs. Jerusalem template, which might just be an educated way to say “Anti-Semitism”; the Dean of his college, an old lover who doesn’t like the administrative life as much as she hoped; a Jewess student who decides on her own to write and stage a modernised version of Antigone instead of a paper for the aforementioned professor; and the girl’s boyfriend, a chemistry major uncommitted to chemistry but with a talent for the classics.

A lot’s going on in here. The girl takes on the arms race (its from the 1980s) with her Antigone, but becomes more stridently Jewish when the professor’s anti-Semitism is suggested to her. Additionally, she doesn’t want to settle any more for a Wall Street job. The professor discovers that he’s about to be retired as students stop signing up for his classes. Is it him or is it less appreciation of the concepts of tragedy in America in the latter part of the 20th century. So many things to ponder, but nothing really brought to the forefront or to a conclusion.

The play leaves the story kinda in media res. Some alliance shift, some changes happen, but in the end, the resolutions are temporary and illusory. I can’t tell if the professor’s point about the inability to appreciate tragedy is supposed to be shown through his story being tragic–or the opposite.

That said, how come so many plays are plays about plays or plays about colleges or screenwriters? Does this make plays less accessible and more insular or does it reinforce the fraternity of people who see plays through common languages and metaphors? Does the use of the word “Jewess” bespeak of my own anti-Semitism?

There’s a lot to think about in this one.

Books mentioned in this review: