History, they say, is written by the victors, which may be one reason why Euripides’s The Trojan Women is such a striking piece. By focusing on the women of Troy in the time between the fall of the city and their being taken away to a life of slavery on Greek ships, a different side of war and its price is revealed. But when brought to life by the right company—in this case Taffety Punk’s Riot Grrrls—it transcends its tragic premise to show both the suffering of those considered incidental to war and the strength and resilience of women throughout history.
The text of the play may be thousands of years old, but the Riot Grrrls find clever and not-overly-ostentatious ways to make it relevant to a contemporary audience. The opening scene, for instance, during which the women of Troy are enjoying a celebratory dance party set to Taylor Swift’s “Shake it Off” right up until the moment when that mythic wooden horse disgorges its hidden Greek cargo, immediately calls to mind the events of November 8, in that the shock and sting of a loss is made that much more demoralizing by the presumption of a resounding victory.
These contemporary touches are carried through the piece, from the set to Jen Gillette’s modern costumes and Kathy Cashel’s bullets-and-bombs soundtrack. These flourishes are subtle and resist the temptation to call attention to their own cleverness. All in all, it works to render such an event-specific piece timeless and universal.
But what really elevates the production beyond its grief-stained text is the talented cast’s multifaceted performance. Under Kelsey Mesa’s direction, the ensemble pivots easily from tough to tender and touches the heavy material with unexpected moments of levity and grace.
This duality is embodied most obviously by Hecuba (infused with both vulnerability and grit by Brigid Cleary), the fallen queen who is given the impossible task of grieving her husband, children, and city all at once while also having to serve as a rigid spine for her fellow countrywomen. The scene in which she argues for the execution of Helen (a beguiling Sara Dabney Tisdale) shows her ruthlessness even in grief. Helen herself serves as an embodiment of the damned-either-way nature of women in the aftermath of war as she is presented as both a feckless adulteress and an agency-less victim of cruel gods, depending on whom you’re asking.
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The Trojan Women
closes March 4, 2017
Details and tickets
The entire ensemble delivers stand-out performances (particularly Erica Chamblee, who conveys a wide range of emotions even when she’s not speaking) that, when coupled with surprising interludes of music and movement, keep the unrelenting misery of the characters’ situation from turning into a leaden slog and embody even the unnamed women of the Chorus with great depth and humanity.
The Trojan Women, as presented by this kick-ass group of actors, deftly demonstrates both the tragedy of war and its inherent ridiculousness (“All of this because a man desired a woman?” scoffs Hecuba at one point, taking in the destruction all around her). It’s simultaneously a call for peace and for resistance, and makes for one seriously thought-provoking and affecting evening of theatre.
The Trojan Women by Euripides. Directed by Kelsey Mesa. Cast: Erica Chamblee, Brigid Cleary, Liz Daingerfield, Danielle Drakes, Shanara Gabrielle, Katie Murphy, Sarah Pretz, Lynette Rathnam, Sara Dabney Tisdale. Set realization: Crista Noel Smith, Aaron Beaver, Renee Beaver, Natalie Nichols, Steve Quartell, and Peter Whitten. Lighting design: Mary Keegan. Costume design: Jen Gillette. Sound design: Kathy Cashel. Stage manager: Natalie Nichols . Produced by Taffety Punk’s Riot Grrrls. Reviewed by John Bavoso.