Strong Man

Hercules in High Suburbia will definitely prove to be one of the high points of this year's New York International Fringe Festival. Produced by Watson Arts Project and playing at the Mazer Theatre, the show incorporates music, Greek drama, and high comedy to dazzling effect. Based on Euripides's Heracles, this tongue-in-cheek send-up of high society and married life transplants the Greek mythological hero and his family to the modern-day gated community of Thebes by the Sea. It opens with Hercules's wife, Megara, awaiting her husband's return after a three-year absence (he was off filming his television show, natch). On the day of Hercules's return, Megara and her family are evicted from their kingdom by the community's president, Lycus. Chaos, comedy, and the real legend of Hercules ensue.

Mary Fulham has provided a delightfully witty framework to highlight Paul Foglino's exceptional music. With a nod to Greek mythology, she perfectly captures the travails of contemporary suburban life, creating a whimsical script with inside jokes and farcical send-ups. Foglino has composed a superb score that has depth, texture, and endless humor. His music artfully spans every genre, from country to soul to Elvis-style rock 'n' roll.

The cast is sublime. Led by the luminescent Ellen Foley as Megara, each member of the six-person ensemble shines. Foley demands attention as her bold, brassy voice soars, and she attacks each number with gritty determination. Hercules in High Suburbia also allows Foley to delve into her theatrical arsenal, proving she is a skilled actress, a deft comedian, and an incomparable singer with a knockout voice.

Dana Vance proves herself a formidable force as she effortlessly takes on multiple roles to hilarious effect, whether dressed as a police officer, in pink fur and horns, or as a mad dominatrix. She even takes a two-minute role with a half-dozen lines and turns it into a comedic tour de force.

Postell Pringle embodies Hercules's strength and bravado to a tee, ably supported by his rich, soulful voice. The very amiable Hal Blankenship provides pitch-perfect support as Hercules's father, Amphitryon. Dan Matisa as Zeus and Neal Young as Lycus inhabit their characters with comedic conviction and delightful abandon.

Hercules in High Suburbia only falters in its staging and transitions. Fulham directs her actors to play everything at the edge of the stage, never allowing them to fully realize their space. And the otherwise excellent musical numbers don't get their full due under Fulham's lukewarm direction.

A hysterical musical comedy that is equal parts social commentary and Greek tragedy, Hercules in High Suburbia attains Olympian heights. In the end, all that's missing is more songs for Ellen Foley to sing.

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