Theater archives

Supernatural Wife Enjoys Some Underworld


Death is generally non-negotiable: When it comes for you, you go, and after crossing the Styx, you pretty much stay on the other side. Except not for queen Alkestis, the titular spouse in Big Dance Theater’s delightfully eerie Supernatural Wife—a multimedia movement piece based on one of Euripides’ odder tragedies (translated by Anne Carson, directed by Paul Lazar and Annie-B Parson). Here, the realms of living and dead are barely separate—think Greenpoint/Long Island City—and traveling between them is distinctly possible.

That’s lucky for loyal Alkestis (Tymberly Canale)—a wife so devoted that when Death unexpectedly claims her husband (the result, per usual in Greek myth, of an obscure inter-deity squabble) she volunteers to expire instead. Thankfully, strongman Herakles (Pete Simpson) soon arrives, gets tipsy, and storms off to the underworld to retrieve her.

Lazar and Parson relish the fable’s otherworldly strangeness, wittily paring it down to essentials (“Are you done yet?” growls Death to Alkestis, interrupting a stately deathbed solo). Choral dances combine rhythmic stomping with idiosyncratic hand gestures; flickering home-movie-style projections add ghostly charm. A biceps-flexing Herakles plays a light-up drum kit.

Canale’s living-dead heroine is gracefully stoic. It’s unsettling when she returns from Hades, spectral and temporarily speechless, unable to tell the forbidden sights she saw. As she clasps her long-lost hubby’s hand, you’ve gotta wonder: Was the marriage worth it?