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Theater review: 'Alceste' at Theatre of NOTE

February 17, 2011 |  3:00 pm

Alceste Eurydice looked back.  So did Lot's wife. Followers undone by feminine curiosity, they met doom because they violated husbandly orders. 

Alceste, the heroine of B. Walker Sampson's “Alceste,” now in its world premiere at Theatre of NOTE, is poured from a more heroic mold.  As in Euripides' “Alcestis,” the play upon which Sampson's play is loosely based, Alceste boldly sacrifices her own life to spare her husband from death.

Euripides hedged his bets with “Alcestis,” which mingles comedy with tragedy -– or vice versa, depending on which scholar you consult.  Sampson displays no such dramaturgical ambivalence, approaching his source material with tongue wedged firmly in cheek. 

Alceste (Lorianne Hill) and Adamet (Trevor H. Olsen) are little changed from the original. From there, Sampson goes a bit wild. Apollo has osmosed into Man With Blazing Necktie (Lynn Odell), bent on lechery and mischief.  Hercules is now Frigga Brenda (Julia Prud'homme), a superhero in the Marvel mode. A sardonic Ferryman (Ezra Buzzington) stands in for Thanatos, while a Vargas pin-up temptress (Jennifer Flack) struts her stuff and clownish portraits-come-to-life (Cat Davis and Rick Steadman) function as a chorus.

Excellent design elements -– Naomi Kasahara's set, Michael Roman's lighting, Ryan Brodkin's sound and Takashi Morimoto's costumes –- contribute to the ambience of a fever dream. Director Darin Dahms and a sterling cast rein in the excesses of Sampson's episodic text in a rigorous staging that underscores the piece’s delightful weirdness.

--F. Kathleen Foley

“Alceste,” Theatre of NOTE, 1517 N. Cahuenga Blvd., Hollywood.  8 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays, 7 p.m. Sundays.  Ends March 12. $22.  (323) 856-8611.  Running time:  2 hours, 15 minutes.

Photo: Ezra Buzzington and Lorianne Hill. Credit: Nicholas Sayaan.