Sections

Play-to: Hit the books before seeing ‘Hoi Polloi’s Republic’

The Brooklyn Paper
Share on TwitterTweet
Share on Facebook
Subscribe

Get our stories in your inbox, free.

Like Brooklyn Paper on Facebook.

Creating a play about a 2,400-year-old, 300-page philosophical text is no small feat.

But the Hoi Polloi theater company mostly rises to the occasion in its production of Plato’s “The Republic,” currently playing at Clinton Hill’s Jack theater. The rub is that you have to be interested in the subject matter before you walk in the door — the production has added traditional theatrical elements such as a setting and a narrative, but these additions may be too sparse for those unfamiliar with the subject material to engage with the play.

Writer Noah Mease and director Alec Duffy have successfully boiled the iconic text down to its fundamental components, stripping away sophistry and semantic quibbles in favor of the work’s essential questions — is it necessarily in our interest to be good people? How should we best educate our children? And what is the role of art in society? At the same time, the show broaches more esoteric subjects such classical political ideals and the Platonic notion of a three-part soul, while remaining mostly accessible to the average viewer.

The main challenge in producing a play based on a dialogue is staging the thing, and Hoi Polloi have created a compelling environment that facilitates action.

Jack itself mirrors the classical Greek “theater in the round,” where the audience surrounds the stage. Decorating the set are about a dozen columns arranged in a circle — evoking the Agora, a meeting place for political discussion in ancient Greece. As the actors deconstruct the ideal society, they deconstruct the stage itself, moving, rearranging, and interacting with the columns.

Another challenge is giving the audience a narrative to follow. The action in Plato’s text is mostly hypothetical, and there are few dramatic moments — so they had to be invented.

The play’s action takes place in two realms — the first is the Agora where Socrates (Lori E. Parquet) builds the ideal society along with fellow philosopher Glaucon (Jason Quarles) and a student (Jess Barbagallo), while the second realm imagines what that society might look like. This latter realm gives audiences a narrative arc with which to identify, while also presenting some of the counter-arguments Socrates faced in Plato’s text.

In one such scene, Socrates and Glaucon tiptoe over the set’s columns as they discuss whether it is right to perpetuate a lie for the good of society. The metaphor becomes palpable as they tread ever so lightly upon the very ideals — truth and virtue — that support society in an effort toward greater stability and harmony.

Like most Socratic dialogues, “Hoi Polloi’s Republic” offers no concrete answers, instead serving as a jumping-off point for post-show discussion. If you are into the classics, Hoi Polloi’s Republic is worth your time — but don’t make it your first introduction to Plato.

“Hoi Polloi’s Republic” at Jack (505 1/2 Waverly Ave. between Fulton Street and Atlantic Avenue in Clinton Hill, www.jackny.org). March 14–16 and 18–22 at 8 pm. $18.

Reach reporter Max Jaeger at mjaeger@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-8303. Follow him on Twitter @MJaeger88.
Today’s news:
Share on TwitterTweet
Share on Facebook
Subscribe

Get our stories in your inbox, free.

Like Brooklyn Paper on Facebook.

Reasonable discourse

Patrick from Carroll Gardens says:
There have been plenty of theater pieces that hang on conflicts of ideas (ever heard of Shaw?) and what makes them succeed as theater isn't allegorical staging, but the commitment of the actors embodying the ideas and thinkers. You didn't say one word about the performances!

So, how were the actors? Right now I don't feel much like checking this out.
March 13, 2014, 11:17 am
John Wasserman from Propect Heights says:
Judging from looking at the drawing above, this may not be the right thing for John Wasserman, but I do encourage others to go and please remember to enjoy yourselves. Thank you for reading.
John Wasserman
March 13, 2014, 2:41 pm

Enter your comment below

By submitting this comment, you agree to the following terms:

You agree that you, and not BrooklynPaper.com or its affiliates, are fully responsible for the content that you post. You agree not to post any abusive, obscene, vulgar, slanderous, hateful, threatening or sexually-oriented material or any material that may violate applicable law; doing so may lead to the removal of your post and to your being permanently banned from posting to the site. You grant to BrooklynPaper.com the royalty-free, irrevocable, perpetual and fully sublicensable license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform and display such content in whole or in part world-wide and to incorporate it in other works in any form, media or technology now known or later developed.

First name
Last name
Your neighborhood
Email address
Daytime phone

Your letter must be signed and include all of the information requested above. (Only your name and neighborhood are published with the letter.) Letters should be as brief as possible; while they may discuss any topic of interest to our readers, priority will be given to letters that relate to stories covered by The Brooklyn Paper.

Letters will be edited at the sole discretion of the editor, may be published in whole or part in any media, and upon publication become the property of The Brooklyn Paper. The earlier in the week you send your letter, the better.

MetroPlus Roosevelt Savings Bank Coney Island Hospital Brookdale VillageCareMax

Keep it local!

Stay in touch with your community. Subscribe to our free newsletter:

Optional: