Parker Murphy as Nick in "Antigonick." Photo by Pak Han/Shotgun Players
Parker Murphy as Nick in “Antigonick.” Photo by Pak Han/Shotgun Players
Parker Murphy as Nick in “Antigonick.” Photo by Pak Han/Shotgun Players

We are fortunate to have a company in Berkeley like Shotgun Players— always willing to take risks, to present large and small productions, classics, new material, or new takes on classics, as in Antigonick.

The beautiful art book Antigonick, on which Shotgun’s production is based, is a new translation of the Sophocles play, Antigone, by Canadian world-class poet, classicist and MacArthur “genius” fellowship winner, Anne Carson, and her collaborator Robert Currie. Published in 2012, the book contains text blocks hand-inked on the page, with translucent vellum pages and stunning drawings by Bianca Stone that overlay the text. Shotgun has some copies for sale.

Directors Mark Jackson and Hope Mohr turn the 2,500-year-old play into an ultra-modern visual, dance and intellectual experiment that combines Carson’s adaptation, Mohr’s choreography skills, and Jackson’s tested directorial talent.

Foreground left to right: Parker Murphy as Nick and Rami Margron as Antigone. Background: Kevin Clarke as Kreon, David Sinaiko as The Chorus. Photo by Pak Han/Shotgun Players.

The story remains basically the same. Antigone (Rami Margron) is engaged to marry her cousin Haimon (Kenny Toll), son of Kreon (Kevin Clark), the new King of Thebes. Antigone’s two brothers, fought and were killed on opposite sides of the battle for control of Thebes. Kreon, believing that one brother was a traitor, refuses to bury him. Antigone concludes that her duty to bury her brother is a higher one than to obey Kreon. From this conflict, no solution arises, and most of the family dies in bitter conflict.

Like all experimental theater, certain aspects of the play will have greater resonance than others. Unlike other productions of Antigone, this 75-minute version is short on exploration of the insurmountable ethical questions facing the family and long on heavy-stepped dance moves and other avant-garde touches.

For example, the set by Nina Ball is a light wood wall at the back of the stage that curves and becomes the stage floor, so that the actors try to walk up it and fall back down à la Gene Kelly. Think of a skateboard park curve. The actors worked very hard on the wall and the dance steps, but often their efforts left me unmoved. On the other hand, the frantic dance by Eurydice (Monique Jenkinson) as she learns of her son’s death was a tour de force.

You may be wondering why the play is titled Antigonick. Nick (Parker Murphy) is a mute man who remains on the stage throughout the play, dressed entirely in white. He measures things, particularly time, as in “we’re standing in the nick of time.” I’ll let you be the judge of the impact of his presence. Contrary to what I first thought, Nick is not the chorus. David Sinaiko gives a fine performance as the chorus and Rami Margron is a stand-out as Antigone.

There must be something in the air these days that is causing many different theater groups to produce versions of Sophocles’ Antigone, three in the Bay Area alone. And several years ago, at the Barbican Centre in London, Juliette Binoche starred in a version of Antigone based on the Anne Carson book, to middling reviews.

Antigonick runs through April 19, 2015. For information, extended performance dates and tickets, visit Shotgun Players. 

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Emily S. Mendel

Freelancer Emily S. Mendel reviews Berkeley’s vibrant theater scene for Berkeleyside. As a native New Yorker (although now a 37-year East Bay resident), Emily grew up loving and studying theater, from...