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‘Antigone’ Packs Contemporary Bite

Updated to tackle contemporary ethnic, racial and national conflicts, Sophocles’ “Antigone” meshes provocatively with Goran Gajic’s assaultive staging at Hollywood’s Hudson Guild Theatre.

The ancient drama’s harrowing scrutiny of blind allegiance to a totalitarian regime is clearly familiar territory for the director--in 1991, Gajic fled the disintegrating Yugoslavia with his wife, actress Mira Furlan, who plays the defiant heroine here.

The shadow of ethnic strife and suppression of individual dissent in their tortured homeland lies heavy on this production, set amid the twisted rubble of an unnamed province in which the callous dictator Creon (Wayne Duvall) demands absolute obedience to his most inhuman demands--like his decree that the corpse of Antigone’s allegedly traitorous brother remain unburied. When Furlan’s courageous Antigone disobeys, the resulting cycle of tragedy speaks eloquently to the value of moral commitment despite the consequences.

Staging embellishments like gunshots, video monitors and strobe lights notwithstanding, Deanne Stillman’s adaptation steers clear of adding psychological layers--the stark, archetypal natures of the characters and their passions remain undiluted. The traditional Greek chorus has been updated to a series of recurring “man-on-the street” TV interviews, but the gimmick quickly becomes tedious.

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With cacophonous, machine-gun intensity the piece fairly races to its grim finale, capped by an ingenious curtain call in which the performers are executed one by one. It’s a sight theatergoers may have longed for on occasion, but in this case the capable ensemble hardly deserves it.

* “Antigone,” Hudson Guild Theatre, 6543 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood. Thursdays--Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m., runs indefinitely. $15. (213) 660-TKTS. Running time: 1 hour, 15 minutes.


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