“Is She Dead Yet?” at Annex Theatre

The two things you can say with certainty about Annex Theatre are that the company is powerfully ambitious and determined to produce bold new work. Unfortunately concepts that look good on the drawing board don’t always translate well to the stage. So it is with “Is She Dead Yet?”

Written and directed by Brandon Simmons, it’s a modern take on Euripides’ classic tale of King Admetus and his wife Alcestis. In the Euripides original, King Admetus through godly intervention was allowed to live beyond his allotted lifetime. There was, however, a catch. He had to find a substitute when death came to take him away. The only one who stepped up to be his proxy was Alcestis, his adored and adoring wife. In the Euripedes play, gods and humans deceive and reward one another as revelry and mourning play tag.

What’s presented on this stage lacks sophistication, subtlety, and focus. It’s a play set some time in the future, a play that is supposedly “a conscious exploration of whiteness” and the way we value people. Though the Alcestis character is black married to a white man and she’s the last remaining black person on earth, the play veers off in so many other directions that its focus gets lost. We learn that her husband, the white guy stand-in for King Admetus, has a small penis and a significant heart issue, that his incestuous family runs a smog factory. There is mention of environmental degradation, but there seems to be no attempt to tie everything together.

This production is on overload. Much of the acting is overdone. The lighting and sound are designed to knock you out of your chair. The “chorus” is a bit too affected.

There is, however, one shining light. Hannah Victoria Franklin playing two roles does everything right. She’s rough. She’s butch. She’s an incredibly sexy woman. She’s commanding. She’s funny. She was by far the brightest spot in an otherwise tedious evening.

Through Aug. 22 at Annex Theatre, 1100 E. Pike St., Seattle (206-728-0933 or http://www.annexthetre.org)

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