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Next door to Barberry on Metropolitan Avenue in Williamsburg is a red door, the kind that usually hides a garage or machine shop populated by illegals working eighteen hour shifts. If once it locked up the hopes of the unfortunate, now it is home to The Assembly’s production of “Home/Sick,” a play the company wrote collectively about the Weather Underground, the Marxist revolutionary group who declared war against the United States in 1970s and early 80s.
The former garage (or sweatshop, or whatever) opened its mysterious door soon thereafter. A nice fellow wearing mirrored sunglasses, a black suit, and an earpiece (obviously one of Hoover’s G-Men) offered me some refreshingly cold and free water. He told me to take a button sporting the slogan “Your Brain Is A Bomb.” I took my seat, wiped the perspiration from my brow, and settled back in my chair, ready to be entertained.
The enduring appeal of classic plays is sometimes hard to understand. In Shakespeare’s case, the play can be literally hard to understand. Even well-educated viewers can miss out substantially on the Bard’s subtleties of language, not to mention the differences in sensibility between twenty-first century Moderns and sixteenth century Elizabethans. And he wrote in English! With Greek drama – particularly tragedy – the difference between how they saw the world and how we see the world is particularly wide. Though the Athenian government of the 5th century was democratic, only ten percent of the total population was enfranchised, and every family of means owned slaves. Though some ancient Greeks invented rationalism and science, their most devout religious rituals looked like a mix of Burning Man and Bonnaroo. And their view of fate was fare more bleak than our belief in Divine Providence, which, in our secular age, we call American Exceptionalism.