Shotgun Players stage slick ‘Antigonick’

There’s almost nothing that isn’t interesting, at times fascinating, about Shotgun Players’ dance-infused production of “Antigonick,” poet Anne Carson’s adaptation of the ancient Greek tale of the girl who famously defied King Kreon’s edict in order to bury her brother Polyneikes, killed by her other brother in war.

Carson’s text, a heady and surprising blend of formal and the vernacular, captures attention. Antigone (Rami Margron) and her sister Ismene (dancer Monique Jenkinson, who also portrays Queen Eurydike) throw references to Hegel, Beckett, even Virginia Woolf, into their discussion of Antigone’s planned transgression and its inevitable outcome (death).

Carefully detailed direction by Mark Jackson and choreographer Hope Mohr physicalize the story in equally compelling, wonderfully theatrical ways.

And the fine six-member cast (including Kevin Clarke as Kreon, Kenny Toll as his son Haimon and dancer Parker Murphy as a non-speaking character who fulfills various roles) is well up to all of the considerable challenges.

The set by Nina Ball is startling: nothing but a wooden floor that curves up to form a back wall (up which some characters try repeatedly to escape) and, overhead, a huge, upside-down horse suspended from the ceiling with ropes.

As a one-man Chorus, a professorial-looking David Sinaiko infuses the role of advice-giver and commentator with wry humor and compassion.

erhaps partially adhering to the way Carson’s text is arranged on the page, the actors deliver their lines at times quite oddly, full of abrupt, middle-of-the-line pauses, shouting or murmuring and other abstract forms of expression; presumably, Jackson aims to replicate the rhythms of the poetry itself.

The effect can be suspenseful and intriguing and at times frustrating (the opening section, in which the two sisters shout, very rapidly, in perfect unison, is particularly difficult to understand).

A driving sound design (by Theodore J.H. Hulsker) underscores the action in exciting ways, and a few songs (“vocal music” by Beth Wilmurt), sung by the cast, are simply lovely.

Carson’s “Antigonick” presents an existential dilemma: a morally determined scofflaw and an equally morally determined ruler who must eventually face his own guilt.

But ultimately what’s missing in the clever and imaginative writing, and in this polished production, is that catharsis of pity and fear that’s so essential to Greek tragedy. No matter how boldly conceptual the version, we should care about the fate of Antigone and, here, Kreon too.

REVIEW

Antigonick

Presented by Shotgun Players

Where: Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby Ave., Berkeley

When: 7 p.m. Wednesdays-Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays, 5 p.m. Sundays, closes April 25

Tickets: $20 to $35

Contact: (510) 841-6500, www.shotgunplayers.org

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