The plight of two exceedingly imperfect lovers separated by death, selfish desires, and soul-searing guilt burns with dramatic intensity in B. Walker Sampson's free adaptation of the Euripides tragedy "Alcestis." Director Darin Dahms masterfully mines the comedy of the mostly dark piece, bringing modern flair and stylish symbolism to the ancient text.
Alceste (Lorianne Hill) is haunted in her sleep by a hissing sound. A many-headed beast—effectively played by a gaggle of actors swaying in unison—crowds the foot of her bed, signaling the presence of a nefarious force. Wild-eyed over this portent of doom, Alceste wakes her husband, Adamet (Trevor H. Olsen), who at first finds nothing amiss but soon reveals a mortal chest wound. Death, it seems, has come for Adamet, but he manages to swap places with his beloved. As Adamet waves from shore, Alceste sets sail with the ominously hooded Ferryman at Large (Ezra Buzzington).
Ensuing are two journeys born of the same event. Alceste moves through scenes of fantastic wonder that serve to mute but not obliterate her longing for life on the earthly plain, while Adamet's entire existence becomes engulfed in grief. Gods, demons, and temptresses join both lovers on their separate roads, including a mysterious, statuesque brunette (Jennifer Flack)—a bathing-suited siren whose charms lure Adamet into a deep well of anguish.
Most of the comedy comes at the hands of the butch heroine, Friga Brenda (Julia Prud'homme), whose superhuman strength is no match for The Man With the Blazing Necktie (Lynn Odell), a dark deity ironically outfitted with a burning swath of sunlight on his chest. Rick Steadman and Cat Davis, as two paintings come to life, also supply ample doses of offbeat comic relief. A sense of keen irony underlines the entire production as Sampson's sharp script is supported by Dahms' tragicomic vision.
Presented by and at Theatre of NOTE, 1517 N. Cahuenga Blvd., Hollywood.
Feb. 11–Mar. 12. Fri.–Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m. (Also Thu. 8 p.m., Mar. 3 and Sat. 2 p.m., Mar. 5.) (323) 856-8611. www.theatreofnote.com.