The reviews are in for Guthrie Theater’s The Burial at Thebes

Did these critics see the same play?

Guthrie Theater’s production of The Burial at Thebes has drawn two distinct reactions – either rave reviews, or a “it just doesn’t sit right.”

The play is a reworking of Sophocles’ Antigone, and was written by Nobel prize winning poet Seamus Heaney.

Check out the excerpts of reviews below, or click on the links to read them in their entirety.

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The chorus in The Burial at Thebes

Photo by Michael Brosilow

From Tad Simons at Mpls-St.Paul magazine:

One of the many triumphs in The Burial at Thebes, which opened over the weekend, is the play’s uncanny ability to bridge the ancient and modern worlds. Using a version written by Irish poet Seamus Heaney, director Marcela Lorca has created a production that feels timeless. More impressive than its timelessness, however, is its timeliness. It’s the right story to be telling now, because it’s classically tragic and eerily relevant.

From Rob Hubbard at the Pioneer Press:

The Guthrie Theater is presenting a fairly strong production of Heaney’s take on the tale of an autocratic king’s clash with his headstrong niece. But it misses opportunities to resonate as deeply it could.

That might be because Heaney chooses to focus on the hubris of King Creon, who clings stubbornly to his decisions when all around him warn of grim consequences. As a result, the play sometimes seems a reprise of the boss-gone-crazy scenario that the Guthrie explored last season with Shakespeare’s “The Winter’s Tale.”

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Stephen Yoakam as King Creon and Sun Mee Chomet as Antigone

Photo by Michael Brosilow

From John Olive at HowWasTheShow.com:

The great Nobel Prize winning Irish poet Seamus Heaney has adapted this rich material. Heaney’s writing is lean and focused, muscular and tight. He displays a seasoned playwright’s instinct for poetry of the theater (as opposed to poetry – pretty language – in the theater). Indeed, there isn’t a wasted (or dull) moment. Clocking in at ninety intermissionless minutes, Heaney’s Burial grabs you by the throat and never lets go.

From Becki Iverson at Metro Magazine:

Does the plot remain true to Sophocles’ original script? Yes. Does it retain some emotional and philosophical power despite the cast’s widely ranging deliveries? Yes. Does it have a serviceable set, lovely costumes and inventive twists on the stereotypical ‘coliseum’ imagery so often seen when ancient plays are performed? Yes.

Despite all the signs that this should have been a solid production, it just doesn’t sit right. Perhaps it was the Boyz II Men-meets-Sophocles vibe that arose at most of the chorus’ stanzas. Something about the Tevye shimmy and soulful beats performed with the ancient dialogues felt highly out of place.

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Greta Oglesby as Tiresias

Photo by Michael Brosilow

From Jay Gabler at TC Daily Planet:

From the first moment to the last, director Marcela Lorca keeps Burial at Thebes taut and compelling. Everyone involved is at the top of their games, including set designer Monica Frawley, whose mammoth catacomb may cause you to gasp before the show even starts. Much of the show rests on the shoulders of the five-man chorus, who carry it well; among the men are the venerable Richard Ooms, the commanding T. Mychael Rambo, and Robert Robinson, a local Gospel legend whose great physical bulk and angelic voice lend gravity to every moment he’s onstage–which, fortunately, is almost all of the play.

This is a production that gets everything right.

From Graydon Royce at the Star Tribune:

“Antigone,” or in this case “Thebes,” calls to us from the ages with such nagging and persistent questions. Sophocles’ words are not much changed, just as the liturgies of a religious service remain the same each time we visit them. The strength of Lorca’s Guthrie production is how these words unlock thoughts and reactions in our own minds. However unsettling that might be.

Have you seen Burial at Thebes? If so, what did you think? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

  • kristin

    “The Boyz II Men-meets-Sophocles vibe that arose at most of the chorus’ stanzas”, is what made it brilliant. I loved the guys in the chorus, they made the whole production.

  • john

    They are both right. Some of the acting is great, but it can be a little strident and certainly is uneven. The music and even the dance are terrific – but maybe a little too much. The story itself and the lines are excellent. It’s a worthy effort and certainly a unique contribution to MN theater.

  • Paul Harris

    This is the most powerful chorus ever. Robinson anchors the chorus and the play. We going to see Thebes a second time; it’s remained in our minds constantly since seeing it last week. We’re left in the perennial tension between the needs of the state and the demands of personal/family piety