Monday, May 22, 2023

"Antigonick" by Full Circle Theater Company at Mixed Blood Theatre

Full Circle Theater often produces new work, but this spring they're doing one of the oldest plays in theater. Sophocles (or Sophokles) wrote Antigone a couple of millennia ago, as part of the Oedipus trilogy (you know, the guy who famously murdered his father and married his mother). But this new translation, by classics scholar Anne Carson, is probably unlike any Greek play you've ever seen, and in that way, Full Circle is continuing their tradition of producing new, inclusive, relevant work. In a talkback after the show I attended, director Martha B. Johnson noted that this play is the only one Anne wrote not on commission, and it began as a graphic novel. She called the translation "startling;" Full Circle co-Artistic Director Rick Shiomi called it "wild." But the playwright insists it's a translation not an adaptation, saying (quoted in the program), "Everything I've done in the translation is an attempt to convey a move or shock or darkening that happens in the original text. This doesn't always mean reproducing the words and sentences of the original in their same order; but a play is a collection of actions or doings, this is what needs to be rendered from Greek into English." Her translation makes this ancient play feel alive, using lyrical language composed in interesting ways. Full Circle takes an equally creative approach, adding movement, and the talented 12-person cast beautifully brings the vision to life. See this new old Antigonick at Mixed Blood Theatre now through June 4.

In case you don't remember your classic Greek, here's a refresher. Antigonick is the daughter of Oedipus and his mother. After that tragedy concluded, Antigonick's two brothers fought over control of Thebes, killing each other in the process. One is seen as a hero of Thebes and buried with honor, the other is seen as a traitor, his body left out exposed to the elements. Antigonick believes that no matter what her brother has done, he deserves the traditional honorable burial, so she sets out to do that, even though that's against the law made by the current King. She needs to follow the law of the gods and her conscience, no matter the consequences.

King Kreon (Rich Remedios) delivers Antigonick's (Oogie_Push)
punishment (photo by LKBackman)
The 75-minute play is dense with language, meaning, and action. The story begins with a dance performed by the whole company, and movement is incorporated into the storytelling throughout in a way that's difficult to describe but feels true to the story. Choreographer Sandy Agustin plays a character called Nick, as in "the Nick of Time," as a sort of impish character always observing, measuring, and maybe making things happen. This being a Greek play, the Chorus narrates much of the action, with company members stepping into and out of the Chorus as they play other characters in the story. It's a strong ensemble, everyone committed to the emotions of the story. Oogie_Push is an incredibly strong and sympathetic Antigonick, and Rich Remedios is an appropriately terrifying and despicable King Kreon. Everyone else in the ensemble spends at least some time in the Chorus, with brief but memorable featured roles by Laila Sahir as Antigonick's sister, supportive but only so far; Sebastian Grim as her grieving betrothed; and Eva Gemlo as the Queen who has to live with the devastation her husband has wrought.

The design of the piece fits with the modern/classic theme. The mostly bare white stage is a lovely backdrop, with drawings of horses taken from the original graphic novel. There's a cool spinning door in the center of the back wall through which actors can enter dramatically. Characters are dressed in modern but classic clothing, with Antigonick in a bridal white skirt paired with black. (Set design by Mina Kinukawa, costume design by Khamphian Vang.)

With its themes of family loyalty, an authoritarian government, and women standing up for what's right in a world that's against them, Antigonick is an always relevant story. This new true translation, as interpreted through this fine production by Full Circle, makes that even more evident.