Revisiting a theme from Greco-Roman mythology in the traditional style and costumes of Italian Commedia dell’Arte, Ombelico Mask Ensemble’s original adaptation (Alessandro Fani) of Euripides’ Alcestis, which premiered earlier this summer in Florence, is a fun-filled free outdoor treat for the whole family. Directed with pennacchio by the Philadelphia-based company’s long-time Italian collaborator Renato Arcuri (who also plays a very seductive Morte), the physically agile and expressive ensemble engages the audience (and even a passing bus!) in its hilarious bi-lingual script, exceedingly clever ad-libs (including the warning not to eat a child from the audience who wandered into the scene), and witty apropos references to international current events (the upcoming papal visit; the financial crisis in Greece; the appallingly unpopular act of killing a beloved lion, as Hercules battles the violent beast of Nemea).
Accompanied by haunting passages on live cello (Rachel Icenogle) and a riotous puppeteer (Angelo Aiello) who recapitulates the actions and lines of the actors and repeatedly aggravates the narrator (Janice Rabian), the updated ancient characters sing (Olivia Damore as the operatic Alcesti), dance (Darius Johnson as the balletic Apollo), fight, and joke their way to Hell and back. Ombelico co-founders John Bellomo and Brendon Gawel turn in superb comedic performances as the bungling but still egomaniacal Hercules and the entitled, manipulative, and overly emotional Admeto, and along with all the fun, Bellomo and Arcuri leave the audience with a serious moral message. Or two. Or not! [Liberty Lands Park, 926 N. American Street.] September 3-13, 2015; fringearts.com/like-a-bat-out-of-hades.