New York | 1h 30m | Already closed

The Burial at Thebes

From 12 critic and 12 member reviews
Members say: Absorbing, Ambitious, Thought-provoking, Relevant, Disappointing

About the show

The Irish Repertory Theatre presents Irish Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney’s adaptation of 'Antigone,' written as a response to the invasion of Iraq in 2003. More…

A timely reminder of the conflict between the defense of state security and the protection of basic human rights, the story is adapted from Sophocles's 'Antigone.' After the War of the Seven Against Thebes, Antigone, the daughter of Oedipus, learns that her brothers have killed each other, having been forced onto opposing sides of the battle. When Creon, King of Thebes, grants burial to one brother but not the other, Antigone's defiance can only end in ruin.

1h 30m | Already closed | DR2 Theatre (Gramercy)


"Heaney injects touches of colloquialism and humor into a sustained declamatory style that takes a few minutes to get used to amid our contemporary naturalistic expectations. But once attuned to the poet’s leathery cadences, we sink into the story...I’m once again impressed by a fine Irish Rep production that’s different from every other one I’ve seen." Full Review

Theater Pizzazz

"As unostentatiously staged by Charlotte Moore with a solid company, the play reminds us why we keep returning to the Greek well for critical contemplations of universal issues. When New York digs itself out of its own current burial, theatergoers will find that visiting this modern version of an ancient text will be worth the effort. It stirs up many thoughts, not least of which are those regarding the unsettling rhetoric about leadership being mouthed during this year’s presidential campaign." Full Review

Time Out New York

"The characters seem either ill-assured or locked into generic choices; Tony Walton's set design is the wrong size; and stage pictures too often involve a group standing in a half circle while someone else declaims. The Irish Rep's temporary relocation to the postage stamp–sized DR2 may explain some of the production's awkwardness...Twice, though, the show grabs Heaney's text by the throat." Full Review


"In telling of the conflict between the two, and its lamentous result, Heaney is clear, direct and graceful...Dramatically, though, this production isn't likely to have you on the edge of your seat...The cast, performing in a variety of accents, performs on a sliding scale from good to mediocre. The overall production, which is simply staged and runs about 75 minutes, is a good introduction to 'Antigone,' without suggesting why the play is still performed 2,457 years after its debut." Full Review


"I wish that in the process he, and the Irish Repertory Theatre, brought more to the table than just a well-rendered translation...Some of the elemental power of raw emotion remains, and of course Heaney was a superb poet...But we are simply politely intrigued, and I view that as a missed opportunity for both a play and production which could, and should, have gone for more." Full Review


"Robert Langdon Lloyd’s eloquent performance as the blind prophet Tiresias energizes what had been a stilted presentation...The cast doesn’t fully cohere as an ensemble…Though patchy, this production of 'The Burial at Thebes' in 75 minutes fitfully succeeds at depicting this classic tale with some very compelling sequences." Full Review

The New York Times

"A few things feel off in 'The Burial at Thebes.' But one big thing — the script — is on, and that saves this version of 'Antigone' from failure...The production occasionally works against the script. The set and the costumes look woefully cheap and distracting...No overriding guidance seems to steer the actors, who work in disparate and wavering accents that, taken together, prove irksome." Full Review


"In lieu of offering a deeper understanding, Heaney has taken Sophocles' drama and saps it of all nuance...Charlotte Moore directs the piece with a startling lethargy. Her blocking on the cozy DR2 stage suggests claustrophobia...Haemon casually moseys onstage, looking nothing like a man whose fiancée is about to die of forced starvation. Other characters stand to the side and stare out at the audience, like lesser runway models making way for Naomi Campbell." Full Review

Talkin' Broadway

"Seamus Heaney delivered a dead-eyed spin on 'Antigone' that stripped away the drama inherent in Sophocles's tale…Now, by way of a threadbare mounting and casting that, in all but one case, is insulated from any hope of electricity, director Charlotte Moore has ensured that now that poetry doesn't land, either. What remains is a colossal conundrum, an evening that runs only 65 minutes but nonetheless feels painfully overlong and underseasoned." Full Review

Let's Talk Off-Broadway

"Sophocles’ 'Antigone' is among the greatest plays ever written, Seamus Heaney is a Nobel Prize winning poet, and Irish Repertory Theatre produces wonderful shows with outstanding actors. How then did 'The Burial At Thebes' turn out to be a poor derivative of 'Antigone,' with amateurish acting?...The overall sense of the acting is amateurish. Actors whom I’ve seen do outstanding work in other plays are insufficient here, and the accents are all over the place." Full Review

Lighting & Sound America

"If only the director had found actors capable of delivering the verse! Instead, she has assembled a company that is in over its collective head...'The Burial at Thebes' demands a set of skills that is entirely absent here." Full Review

Times Square Chronicles

"The cast in the performance I saw was off. Ms. Brockman had laryngitis; so she was just trying to get the words out, forget about acting the role. Mr. O’Brien is lackluster and seems beaten before the tragedies of his own making leave their mark, so the plot just drags...Directed by Charlotte Moore, with a barely there set design by Tony Walton, this isn’t the company’s best work." Full Review

Absorbing, Ambitious, Great acting, Intelligent, Riveting

See it if you'd like to see an Irish poet's take on Antigone, stirring Greek drama with excellent cast and Irish accent, good sense of Greek stageing

Don't see it if you don't like Greek drama or are tired of Antigone, don't like a lot of declaration rather than direct action,

Great acting, Great writing, Masterful, Riveting, Absorbing

See it if You enjoy the story of Antigone.

Don't see it if You don't like Greek tragedies.

Absorbing, Intelligent, Original, Relevant, Resonant

See it if An excellent translation of Sophocles, well acted, simple but satisfactory set, and well directed. Irish rep delivers again!

Don't see it if You don't savor ancient plays no matter ' how relevant they still are.

Ambitious, Disappointing, Great writing, Dated

See it if You want to hear Seamus Heaney's take on Antigone. The script was the best part of the show.

Don't see it if You care about set design. (Probably the worst set I've ever seen.)

Disappointing, Thought-provoking

See it if a decent staging of a classic, although the translation didn't quite do it for me. Solid acting, but the story dragged after a while.

Don't see it if Well, it's a Greek tragedy. It's not uplifting. Not a splashy production, given the slow-moving, thought-provoking text.

Ambitious, Overrated

See it if you love Seamus Heaney's poetry for that, moderately, is the only saving grace of this. The set and costumes are cheap, the cast is off.

Don't see it if you are true to the original play or want to see vernacular poetic adaptations with more verve.

Ambitious, Disappointing, Intense, Epic, Spotty acting

See it if you love classic Greek plays, and are intrigued by hearing Heaney's version (although I found it lacking in poetry).

Don't see it if you want consistent strong acting. There were lots of acting styles (formal and informal) and different accents here. A jarring uneveness.

Absorbing, Epic, Great acting, Relevant

See it if You are a fan of greek theatre, Seamus Heaney, poetry & power-conflicts

Don't see it if You prefer 4th wall realism living room dramas

During previews
Profound, Thought-provoking, Poetic, Classic

See it if You don't ordinarily like Greek drama. This is pithy and accessible. Seamus Heaney finds poetry in colloquial speech.

Don't see it if You really really couldn't sit through another Greek classic, no matter how well done

During previews
Thought-provoking, Relevant

See it if you like classical drama, Greek tragedies, or ruminations on "the laws of the gods" (morality) vs. "the laws of man" (the state).

Don't see it if you're not ok with suicide as a resolute expression of one's principles.

During previews
Melodramatic, Profound, Indulgent, Dated

See it if you're into Greek tragedies or parables.

Don't see it if you're not a fan of melodrama.

For a previous production
Great writing

See it if you appreciate the classics.

Don't see it if you don't.

Cast & Creatives (14)