Theater Club tackles Greek tragedy
By KAREN SHADE, 6/6/2005
Greek tragedy seems to rarely make an appearance in Tulsa and even less likely in the form of one adapted by Ted Hughes.
But the late English poet laureate's version of Euripides' little known classic "Alcestis" will open at 8 p.m. Thursday at the Nightingale Theater.
Craig Walter, a co-founder of Theater Club who is producing "Alcestis," said Theater Club had been interested in bringing a Greek play to the stage for some time, but he and others in the group wanted something that a contemporary audience could more easily relate to.
They found "Alcestis."
In the play's opening, Queen Alcestis is dying. She has agreed to take the place of her husband, King Admetos, who had been fated to die while in his prime. The only way for the good king to escape his fate is if someone else is willing to die in his place.
"The translation itself is very modern and we wanted to do a Greek play. But, most Greek plays, you have something like, 'O behold the mighty Zeus!' and that's not very interesting. The Ted Hughes version was very modern and it's just lovely to speak," Walter said.
Hughes adapted other Greek works, including "Oedipus" and "The Oresteia."
In the both versions, Apollo's introduction to "Alcestis" outlines a world where Death comes to the door and spiteful gods seek revenge against men and gods alike -- clear markers of Greek tragedy.
In Hughes' take, however, Apollo acknowledges the most powerful of gods as the "maker of the atom," and Death likens the death of Admetos to a nuclear bomb. Such contemporary references exist beside classical Greek columns and a mix of both modern and classic costume details, Walter said.
"I think this world (on stage) is so different from our world, and it's really an odd old spirit. It kind of takes a turn in the middle. It's even odd for a Greek spirit. It's tragic, and then here comes Heracles and it turns into almost a farce, and it's really funny. Then, it turns tragic again," he said.
Bryan Reed, who plays King Admetos, said the role was one of the most difficult he had encountered.
"There's a lot that I like about him. He's the hardest one I've played so far -- the perfect mix of arrogance and vulnerability and all sorts of elements in one," Reed said.
Sometimes it's difficult to like a guy who would let his beloved die in his place, but sometimes "you want to feel sorry for him," Reed said.
In the title role, Valerie Stefan makes a comparably brief appearance on stage -- less than 15 minutes -- but she will make it count, she said.
"There's a good chance that this show could change my life," Stefan said. "This story is about life and death and love. It's amazing."
In her own life, Stefan is dealing with death in the family.
"I really understand it now. A really important thing about the show is that everybody wants to find that person in their life important enough that you would actually give your life up for them," Stefan said. "I think that's amazing, and there are people out there who would do that. . . . That's a heck of a love story to me."
Stefan's interpretation will be just one thrown into what could be a fresh, if complicated, and, at times, bizarre telling of a story that's been around since antiquity.
The cast includes Stefan, Derek Adams, Stephanie Colburn, Matt Garrett, Valerie Hill, David Jefferies, Liz Masters, Mark Miller, Bryan Reed, Kristin Ruyle, Dale Sams, Sean Stefanic, Jason Watts and Sherry Whisman.
"Alcestis" will play at 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and June 16-18, and at 7 p.m. June 12, at the Nightingale Theater, 1416 E. Fourth St.
Tickets are $10. For reservations or more information, call Theater Club at 557-8012 or e-mail a note to firstname.lastname@example.org.