Apparently there is a classics craze going on in Manhattan these days, a Greek one. Perhaps in reaction to real world economic issues, we find solace and strength in old world masterpieces; The Iliad prepares to wage war at the New York Theatre Workshop, and Lysistrata opens up on Broadway as a musical. And speaking of Aristophanes, because, really aren't we always when it comes to comedy, it became very clear during the croaking of the Frogs, a rarely produced comedy, that the Fault Line Theatre Company is making an impact in the cacophony of off Broadway theatre companies.
Although only in its second production, Fault Line, through ambition, talent and dare I say a dramaturg, is taking some old routines and never failing as the first line of Frogs goes. Their first effort was Doctor Faustus to a great reception. This time around is something only less weighty in that it is a comedy. But remember, comedy is hard! Musical comedy is even harder: "What do you do when the good comics are gone and the present ones are dim” and the European Union teeters? Sing and dance.
The basic plot of Frogs (sometimes called The Frogs) in case you missed that day of Greek Civ in college: the god Dionysus, who we usually think of as being the deity of drunkenness, puts on his crocus yellow scarf to be the god of drama. He tries to rescue the playwright Euripides from Hades (the afterlife) to “pull off some dirty work” as the Fault Line loosely translated text explains. The dirty work in question is rescuing Athens in the Peloponnesian war – heavy lifting for a playwright to try and stop the downfall of one of Western Culture’s great democracies (Are you busy in Heaven right now, Mr. O'Neill?)
Dionysus is played by the entertaining Haas Regan (above, rowing, with Craig Wesley Divino as a demonic Charon) whom I saw as a memorable Lady Bracknell a few years back. There is an archness to this performance, indeed to the whole production, but then again, this is a play with an undue amount of flatulence jokes, enough to make Two and a Half Men seems like a somber study in behavioral science. Perhaps archness is just what's needed to balance out the scatalogical references.
The comic journey of god and servant (the mere mortal Xanthias played by the divine Blake Segal) culminates in the land of Pluto (Scott Raker) where a contest brews between the talents of Euripides and Aeschylus. Imagine, if you will, an Ancient Greece Has Talent and it's all down to two playwrights. Sophocles, probably the playwright that is most well known to a modern day audience, is not invited into the verbal brawl because his resurrection would inconvenience his struggling writer of a son. Talk about the anxiety of influence.