Alcestis, Uffish Theater Company, at the Chopin Theatre. Poet Ted Hughes's translation is responsible for most of the taboo breaking in this production of one of Euripides' lesser tragedies, about a queen who sacrifices her life for her husband. But the moment of absolute, unqualified genius in Uffish Theater Company's staging belongs to director Lauren A. Miller. Halfway through the play, the three bowler-clad members of her chorus sit down next to grieving widower Admetos and pull out cigarettes and coffee cups for an informal bull session. Beautiful in its simplicity, it represents an alternative to wrongheaded modern productions of classical dramas: instead of giving undue emphasis to the words, they should concern themselves with basic human interactions.
Absurd and uneven as some of the design elements may be (especially the attempt at a multimedia opening), this Alcestis is never obtuse. Miller's staging always gives audience members something to relate to, whether it's lunkheaded Heracles' childish bravado in reenacting his 12 labors or Admetos's struggle to come to terms with his lover's death. A few cartoonish, larger-than-life turns suggest that some cast members have taken this brazenly anachronistic, loopy, irreverent staging too far--at times it borders on parody. But Miller's Alcestis is always accessible, and in that sense truer to Euripides' intent than the most stolidly faithful production. --Nick Green