Adapted by Ellen McLaughlin
Directed by Anne Cecelia Haney
Written shortly after the barbaric Athenian conquest of Melos, Euripides’s tenth tragedy was designed to inspire his countrymen, if not to give peace a chance, at least to think twice about the human cost of war. Told from the point of view of the vanquished, THE TROJAN WOMEN remains a significant work, its allegories applicable to contemporary conflicts. Trimming the script to a brisk 60 minutes, adaptor Ellen McLaughlin highlights the play’s themes of remembrance, identity and survival, while trimming away some of the lengthier dithyrambs of the original.
In the quiet after the carnage, sea god Poseidon (Thomas Muccioli) walks among the lumbering women of a once great society. As their city burns, the Troades awaken to face a grim future. As we learn from the Chorus (Amanda Centeno, Chun Cho, Clea Decrane, Jenny Jarnagin, Kyra Riley, and Jennifer Tchiapke), the women of Troy were artists, healers, farmers and craftswomen. Now reduced to spoils of war, they will be taken as brides, concubines and slaves by the conquering Greeks. Many, like Hecuba, (DeAnna Supplee) are mourning the loss of their husbands, fathers and sons. Prescient Cassandra(Lindsley Howard), whose visions of the destruction of Troy went unheeded, now takes perverse delight in her new premonition : she is going be murdered, but her new Greek masters will suffer, too. Helen of Troy (Rebeca Rad) mocks their lamentations. Hardened by years of captivity, she has learned to hold her head up even under subjugation. Her presence is not welcomed by the women. After all, it was the Greek king’s lust for Helen that started the war in the first place. Seeking to mar her legendary beauty, the women attack Helen, but their misplaced objurgation changes nothing. Hope arrives in the form of the infant son of Hecuba’s daughter–in-law Andromache (Casey Wortmann). Hecuba instructs Andromache to “teach him to remember”, to carry the story of Troy forward into the future . Alas, it is not to be. In the drama’s most heart-wrenching turn, Greek soldier Talthybius (Phil Feldman) ruefully proclaims that the child must die. Still the Trojan women endure, never forgetting the world they left behind.
McLaughlin and director Anne Cecelia Haney wisely don’t oversell the relevance of the narrative. Its universality speaks for itself, especially given the show’s visual style. Scenic/costume designer Marte Johanne Ekhougen frames the action in a bunker-like space of concrete walls and bare light bulbs. The captives, as well as the soldiers who periodically enter the scene, are mostly clad in muted, culturally-ambiguous apparel. Only Helen and Andromache, wives of royal warriors, appear in colorful finery. Anchored by Supplee’s commanding Hecuba, the cast the delivers the confident, visceral work for which the Bats (The Flea’s resident acting troupe) are well known. Their unaffected approach to this challenging material potently embodies both the mythic and the modern elements of the text.
THE TROJAN WOMEN continues through September 30, 2016 at the Flea Theater is located at 41 White Street (between Broadway & Church Streets), New York, New York. Tickets: https://web.ovationtix.com/trs/pr/960702