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Demigod Gone Wild in Land of Soccer Moms

Published: August 15, 2005

An eager-to-please stinker from people who seem to think that "fringe" means sketchy, smirky and underrehearsed, "Hercules in High Suburbia" sets Euripides' seldom-performed tragedy "Heracles" in a contemporary gated community and adds a pedestrian rockabilly-blues score with inspired lyrics like, "Let me get this straight/The gods are not that great." We've come a long way from the Acropolis, folks.

Mary Fulham, the writer and director of the show - part of the New York International Fringe Festival - takes a few stabs at American excess: the tyrant Lycus (Neal Young) becomes a preppie twit who heads the Thebes by the Sea Homeowners Association and extols his "McMansion on the hill." When Hercules (Postell Pringle) returns from his heroic exploits - which, in Ms. Fulham's version, he did under contract to a reality show no one seems to have watched - he soon goes on a family-killing rampage induced by the jealous Hera (unseen). This senseless spree is captured on a surveillance video that a shocked security guard (Dan Matisa) hopes to sell to "Greeks Gone Wild." Meanwhile, a casually bloodthirsty reporter (Dana Vance) pounces on the scene.

That's pretty much the sum of the would-be topical satire. Elsewhere, Ms. Fulham operates on the notion that Euripides' stark story is somehow funny. That it is very often the opposite doesn't stop the game cast - including Ellen Foley as Herc's desperate housewife, Megara, and Hal Blankenship as kindly old Amphitryon - from putting their best mug forward.

Paul Foglino's underachieving score does offer one lovely duet for Hercules and Megara. The rest, like most of "Hercules in High Suburbia," is just vamping.

"Hercules in High Suburbia" runs tomorrow and Friday at 9:30 p.m.; Saturday at 6:30 p.m.; and Aug. 25 at 3 p.m. at the Mazer Theater, 197 East Broadway, at Jefferson Street, Lower East Side; (212) 279-4488.

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Photo: George Gershwin rehearses, 1929
Photo: George Gershwin rehearses, 1929