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Antigone translates into classic theater

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ANTIGONE, U. Classic Greek Theatre; Sept. 29, 30, 9 a.m., Milton Bennion Hall amphitheater, U. campus; $11 for general admission, $6 for students (ArtTix, 355-2787, or Kingsbury Hall, 581-7100); also noon, Oct. 2, Alder Amphitheater, SLCC Redwood campus (free), and 7:30 p.m., Oct. 9, de Jong Concert Hall, BYU, Provo, all seats $9 each ($3 discount for those with BYU or student activity cards), box office, 378-4322. Running time: 90 minutes (no intermission).

It says right on the program this is the premiere of a new translation of Sophocles' Antigone. "So what?" you might think, "What difference does a translation make?"

As it turns out, translation is amazingly significant. While one can't give total credit to the script, because the acting is also quite good, this production of "Antigone" by the University of Utah's Classical Greek Theatre, directed by Barbara Smith, is both accessible and engaging.

Ah, Antigone! Her family was cursed from the start because her father, Oedipus, killed his father and married his mother. Then, after Oedipus dies, Antigone's two brothers kill each other in a fight over who will be the next king of Thebes. Soon the new king calls one of Antigone's brothers a traitor and refuses him a decent burial.

This play is rich in conflict. Most interesting are conflicts between opposing moralities, such as: Should one be loyal to family or to nation? Antigone chooses family. Kreon, the new king, demands loyalty to Thebes — which eventually costs him his own family.

This translation, by Massachusetts scholar Robert Bragg, highlights the secondary conflicts. In the opening scene Jennifer Clark as Antigone, and Megan Schutt as her sister, give complexity to their characters as they debate whether they should flout the king's rule and bury their brother. Antigone wants no half measures. Is she brave or foolhardy or vindictive to scorn her sister's tepid suggestions?

As Kreon, Lloyd Mulvey is raging and proud and prime for the part. Patrizia Peterson has a brief, intense scene as his wife. John Woodhouse is a blind prophet in a big wig.

The Greek chorus — all male — does some nice chanting and marching and pounding of sticks (choreography by Robin Wilks-Dunn). The chorus' messages are often ironic. The chorus tells us, for instance, that love wins all battles, that love outwits the gods, but that lovers are always crazy.

There is no slang in this production. The language does not call attention to itself; it is merely plain. "Things don't work out that way," one actor says. Or "don't try to share my death." This production is classic in the best sense of the word — easily understood and thought-provoking.

E-mail: susan@desnews.com