Sitting through a production of Antigone can be agony—especially when it’s good. There’s a tale of fratricide at the top, and news of suicide after suicide after suicide for the finale. The events in between—dominated by grieving, geschrei-ing, and debating—can also be grueling, which is entirely on point. From Aristotle and straight through the ages, extreme emotions on stage have been described as a purgative, overwhelming an audience member’s psyche and then rebooting it to a long-lost balance.
At BAM, high prospects for catharsis are tied to the pedigree of both the Sophocles play and the new production’s director, international phenom Ivo Van Hove. His version of Bergman’s Scenes from a Marriage, seen off-Broadway last season, moved the audience from living room to bedroom to surreal head space to get us up close and personal with the truth that no one can hate like a life-long love. His Angels in America made a scarifying void of the near-empty BAM Harvey Theater stage, spurring the characters to cling to and repel each other in an exultant dance of death and life. And his West End revival of Arthur Miller’s A View from a Bridge, which transfers to Broadway this month, proves the play, more than maybe any other in the modern era, deserves comparison to Greek tragedies like Antigone.