You see, Jocasta's husband learns that he's actually her long-lost son, but he insists that she knew it all along. After they both commit suicide, their children are raised by Aunt Eurydice. But soon the boys oppose one another in a civil war for the throne, both dying in battle and leaving their sisters Ismene and Antigone to be exploited by their power-hungry Uncle Creon.
It's a clever idea, retelling the classic myths...in this case, the Theban tragedies...from the women's perspective. Especially when as skillfully done as in Ester Lebo's Four Women Of Thebes. Granted, parts of her account are highly speculative: for example, Antigone fighting alongside Eteocles, rallying the armies like Joan of Arc ( making her more of a threat to Creon, who, incidentally, lusts after the more compliant of his two nieces ) . But we learn more about Mrs. Creon ( whom Sophocles relegated to what ancient Greek wags might have called a "cameo suicide" ) and her part in allowing the Cadmus family intrigue to escalate until only Ismene, who has grown in strength as a result of all she has witnessed, is left alive to rule Thebes pro tempore.
Lebo is well versed in the dramatic conventions of her period. Her dialogue is at once accessible to modern ears while sacrificing none of the dignity we associate with its genre. And though the choruses are treated rather like royal status symbols ( "I am regent now," declares Eurydice, "I should have a chorus, too!" ) , their commentary function is so superlatively integrated into the text, and kinetic spectacle so closely orchestrated with the action, that they never become disruptive.
The final responsibility for turning what might still have been only an upstart academic exercise into a richly textured, fully realized entertainment is the superb ensemble playing exhibited by the Harridan Productions cast under the shared direction of Judi Richardson and T. Clay Buck. Todd Behrend's sturdy Oedipus and Brandon Bruce's WASPish Creon make worthy foils for Kate Parker's scrappy Antigone, Cassandra Bissell's placid Ismene and Stephanie Repin's matronly Eurydice. Note also Demetria Thomas' Chorus Leader and Beka's Teresias, as well as AJ Carpenter and Erik Simonson's messengers, in this auspicious debut production by a company from whom we hope to see more.