With their gods and trashy melodramas, Greek classics rarely translate well to modern times. Gimmicky as it is, the idea behind Lookingglass Theatre’s “Hillbilly Antigone,” updating the action to rural Appalachia, is actually an ingenious solution. Despite a number of problems, the production suggests that perhaps one of the better ways to stage such a ridiculous story is to go whole-hog ridiculous. Created by musician Rick Sims and his wife, the director Heidi Stillman, the play sets up a Hatfields-and-McCoys family feud at its center, with a trio of acoustic musicians as its chorus. A fire-and-brimstone preacher man (Philip R. Smith, whose over-the-top performance is occasionally funny but mostly tiresome) rules the small mountain populace with a heavy hand. Antigone (Mattie Hawkinson, a plucky, no-nonsense actress who is the best thing here) is the only one who dares defy him, causing all hell to break loose. Tonally, the production veers indecisively from bathos to bathroom—“You know they put their farts in cans so they smell them for Christmas?” goes one memorable insult. It’s one thing to be outrageously un-PC (hillbillies are an easy, easy target), but it’s another when the performances are hammy and overblown. About half of the cast has figured out how to underplay the material; the other half flounders. It’s a mixed bag, but the spare country-music score and the show’s homemade look and feel go a long way in drowning out the negatives. (Nina Metz)
This production is now closed.