Gregory Hancock has provided his own unique twist to the story of Marc Antony and Cleopatra.
Hancock, the executive artistic director and founder of Gregory Hancock Dance Theatre, is presenting a world premiere of his version of “Antony and Cleopatra,” which is set for 7 p.m. June 9-11 at The Tarkington in the Center for the Performing Arts in Carmel. The story takes place in two rival nightclubs.
Chloe Holzman plays Octavius Caesar, an investor in the nightclub.
Abilgail Lessaris plays Octavia Caesar, the sister of Octavius and wife of Mark Antony. Octavia is a nightclub singer.
Thomas Mason plays Cleopatra, a drag performer.
“I’m a love interest with Antony and there is a love triangle with the three us,” Mason said.
Mason’s main challenge is dancing in stilettos.
“It’s fun to do some jazzy things along with our modern and contemporary style,” Mason said of the dance.
Adrian Dominguez plays Antony.
The music is commissioned by Cory Gabel, who created a modern rock score for Hancock’s “The Casket Girls” in 2018.
“It’s such a treat to have original music and to create original roles, too,” Hancock said. “It’s a nice treat for us.”
Holzman said it is unique that characters aren’t defined in normal ways, such as through a backstory or even by gender.
“They’re defined by what motivates them throughout the story,” she said. “My character is motivated by power and control. I’m not normally an antagonist, so I’m really enjoying that. Octavia is blindly loyal the whole time. Antony is driven by emotion. Cleopatra is kind driven by emotion, but she is little selfish, too. That’s what gets us in trouble in that our emotions are also our flaws.”
Hancock said the story isn’t set in a particular decade.
“Some of the music has an ’80s vibe to it, but we’re not saying we’re there,” he said.
Lessaris said she loves that Octavia is loyal, which ordinarily would be a positive trait.
“But in this story, it really has a toxic turn to it,” Lessaris said. “She is not very happy, and she is not being treated very well. But she blindly stays with her husband because she loves him. That’s kind of beautiful, but really sad and tragic.”
Lessaris said the tagline fits that “it’s a timeless story of power and passion.”
“There’s so much love but conflicting feelings of power and manipulation,” Lessaris said. “I like the double sided of being loyal created a lot of tragedy throughout the story.”
Lessaris said it’s unclear whether Cleopatra loves Anthony or uses him to gain power.
“Octavius has created the marriage between Octavia and Antony, so she has a lot of feelings about Antony straying away from our family of Romans,” she said.
The story is based on Shakespeare’s play. Hancock said he took the character of Octavia, which was a minor character, and added more depth to it.
“I think her arc is very interesting, so we enhance that,” he said.
Mason said Cleopatra is dramatic about everything.
“There is manipulation going on between all of us and there is power, there is passion and love,” Mason said. “It’s interesting to play the part because I feel all those different things as different times. I feel the passion between us, but I also feel a head turn, and a bribe here and performance here.”
Dominguez said Antony doesn’t realize how his decisions affect everyone else.
“This is my second year with the company, and Mr. Hancock is really good at using our strengths and knows how to challenge us,” Dominguez said.
Hancock said the story is told through dance and lyrics in the music.
“There is voiceover at the top of each act, which describes what is going to happen,” Hancock said. “It’s a complicated story. The Shakespeare play is very complicated.”
Hancock said he streamlined other characters who larger roles in Shakespeare’s version.
For more, visit gregoryhancockdancetheatre.org.