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Hercules in High Suburbia

Presented by and at La MaMa E.T.C., 74 E. Fourth St., NYC, April 18-May 2.

Although Euripides' "Heracles" is almost forgotten today, "Hercules in High Suburbia," a Watson Arts Project, is a delightful modern musical adaptation. Mary Fulham's witty book resets the story in the gated community of Thebes-by-the-Sea and sends Hercules off to Hades for a last episode of a hit reality series. Paul Foglino's clever original songs in rock-and-roll style recall 1950s films that warned of narrow-mindedness in the suburbs. The cast of six, directed by Fulham, make this one of the best Off-Broadway musicals in many a year.

The musical sticks close to the original with clever modern parallels. Lycus, the self-appointed president of the Thebes Homeowner Association, evicts Hercules' wife, Megara, and their three children from their mansion. When Hercules returns unexpectedly, he punishes Lycus, but Hera, wife of the god Zeus (who is really Hercules' father), uses the opportunity to bring destruction to him. Hercules' friend Theseus states the final message that "All men are slaves to fortune."

Most of the cast members double in clever pairings. Matt Landers is amusing as both the social-climbing security guard Nick and the all-powerful Zeus. Ellen Foley is the socially prominent wife and mother Megara and the vindictive goddess Iris. Neal Young plays both the racist Lycus and the suave Theseus.

Dana Vance impresses with her versatility: as a pink-clad satyr, a sexy goddess dressed as a Playboy bunny, a TV newscaster, and a tough security guard. Postell Pringle's Hercules is a middleweight boxer type who can kill with the bend of a golf club. Hal Blankenship's Amphitryon is a golf-playing senior living on his laurels.

The witty sets by Gregory John Mercurio suggest a gated community through the use of blueprints and Greek columns. Ramona Ponce's costumes are dead on target. The musical direction and arrangements featuring electric guitar are by Manny Moreira.

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