June 10, 2009
THEATER REVIEW | 'ASCLEPIUS'
Dramatizing a Greek Tale Seldom Told
By CLAUDIA LA ROCCO
Before her new play, “Asclepius,” opened a few weeks ago, Ellen Stewart said a few words to the adoring audience at La MaMa, which she founded in 1961 and of which she is still the artistic director. Ms. Stewart, who is in fragile health, requiring a wheelchair and an oxygen tank, announced that next year, for the first time, the National Endowment for the Arts would not be supporting La MaMa’s resident troupe, the Great Jones Repertory Company. The reason, she said, was, “I couldn’t explain why I do the Greek plays.”
Ms. Stewart, whose adaptations of the Greeks include “Herakles via Phaedra” and “Antigone,” has now written what she says is the first play ever about Asclepius, the son of Apollo and the god of medicine. There is rich material to be mined, particularly in these advanced medical times, in the narrative of a half-mortal with the controversial power to bring the dead back to life. Ms. Stewart was shrewd to choose it.
“Asclepius” runs through Sunday at the Annex at La MaMa, 66 East Fourth Street, East Village; (212) 475-7710, lamama.org.
The evaluation of the play (represented by the ellipses) is less than enthusiastic, claiming it was more like community than professional theater. But maybe the first go at Asclepius will inspire other scripts to develop the material.