New York — Joseph Chaikin is generally tagged as an experimenter with impressive credentials as leader of the Open Theater and the Winter Project. In tackling the ''Antigone'' of Sophocles, he has underlined its political overtones -- treating Creon as more a tyrant than a statesman, for example, and emphasizing the play's barbed references to money and the love thereof.
Other aspects of the production seem less clearly worked out. Each performer has a different style, from the elusive Antigone of Lisa Banes to the ranting Teiresias of Priscilla Smith, with the others hovering at various positions in between. This incipient hodgepodge never becomes disastrous, however, because of the wonderful rhythm Chaikin gives the proceedings. It's not just a matter of evocative music by Richard Peaslee or a well-ordered Chorus, led by George Lloyd. More than this, it's a deep musicality that pervades nearly all the scenes and cadences of the play, except at the end, when the Creon of F. Murray Abraham gets out of his depth in hysterical overacting, and the whole show nearly sinks.
In its new translation by John Chioles, this half-successful ''Antigone'' is continuing onstage at Martinson Hall in the Public Theater, which looks thoroughly Grecian decked out with Sally Jacobs's scenery and Beverly Emmons's lighting.