Loading...
 

Theater Review - Renewing Classics: Alcestis

NAME: Alcestis, a co-production of Theater Emory and Out of Hand Theater

??
AGE: Euripides' original text dates to 438 B.C. Poet Ted Hughes' adaptation was published posthumously in 1999.

??
HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCE: In Euripides' earliest play to survive intact to the present day, Alcestis (Maia Knispel), young wife of King Admetos (Dave Quay), sacrifices herself rather than allow a lethal curse to take her husband. The tragic plot takes on unexpected elements of comedy when Heracles (Patrick Wood) stops by for a visit.

??
UNIVERSAL THEMES: Apollo (Adam Fristoe) and Death (Justin Welborn) debate the value of life vs. the inevitably of mortality. Admetos' grieving household embodies the virtues of mourning while Heracles makes the case for worldly pleasures. In addition to arguments over family sacrifices, the script recaps some highlights of Greek mythology.

??
DATED QUALITIES: Hughes' adaptation retains the Greek chorus, a theatrical tradition that almost never integrates well with modern theatrical expectations, especially as played by this production's unpolished young actors.

??
POST-MODERN CONCEPTS: Director Ariel de Man sets the show in the fanciful, exotic India of Bollywood musicals, a gimmick that works beautifully: Greek togas usually look lame on stage, but the saris are gorgeous. Hughes updated the play's language to include modern references to lasers and nuclear bombs. The show amusingly casts Heracles as a WWF-style grappler, complete with sexy sidekicks and a George Thorogood theme song, but portraying a supernatural vulture as a masked Mexican wrestler may carry the irreverent concept too far.

??
WORTHY OF REVIVAL?: Yes. The plot, with its strange but modern-feeling blend of tragedy and comedy, resembles one of Shakespeare's genre-busting "problem plays" like A Winter's Tale. With Hughes' evocative, earthy dialogue and English Toole's great costumes, Alcestis offers a fresh take on an ancient text.

??
NOW PLAYING: Thurs.-Fri., Oct. 13-14, 7 p.m., at Mary Gray Munroe Theater, 605 Asbury Circle; Sat., Oct. 15, 7 p.m., and Sun., Oct. 16, 2 p.m., at Schwartz Center for Performing Arts, 1700 N. Decatur Road. $12-$15. 404-727-5050. www.theater.emory.edu.