Sunday, April 18, 2004

Take the A Train


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Saw the Classical Theatre of Harlem's production of Trojan Women on Friday. The play is by Euripedes so that makes it, oh, thousands of years old. Don't worry your pretty little head, classic plays are supposed to be timeless!! Ah, that Mother has said "you could be kind of pretty if only you tried" has no relevance here. Sometimes these classic timeless plays are presented as dustily as ever and tries aren't enough. We've had a lot of Greek drama or stories presented to us this semester - just the luck of the season. But most of them, well, it makes you seriously think about that law where you're not supposed to yell "Fire!" in a movie theater as Escape Plan B.

Anyways, Trojan Women is the story of the aftermath of the Trojan War. The Greeks have won (Remember the horse story?) and the Trojan women are the spoils. Their husbands have been killed; they have been raped and will be forced into slavery or murdered. A baby boy is tossed from a tower because he could one day become a fighting Trojan soldier.

This is a fiercely anti-war play though interestingly, critics of the Euripedes text say, "one can hardly call The Trojan Women a good piece of work, but it seems nevertheless to be a great tragedy." Ouch. Lucky for us, director, Alfred Preisser, has adapted the text, helping to make it powerfully accessible and hit close to home again and again. This play interweaves harrowing real life accounts of women who have survived in places like Sierra Leone, Somalia, and Iraq. A diplomat speaks in honeyed bs mediaspeak, with lines about winning and losing and occupation that have a gosh darn familiar ring, making the audience lreact with laughs from the utter ridiculousness of the statements and horror at its disjunct with reality.

The acting is disturbingly moving. The women succeed in a collective desperation, putting the chain-link fence to good use, clawing it, hitting it, attempting to climb over it. The decision to have the fence as part of the set works perfectly, separating the audience from the caged women, increasing the feeling of helplessness and hopelessness.

From the talkback afterwards, it was quite evident that the cast is incredibly intelligent and passionate about their work. Twelve year old, Zora Howard, was more eloquent and thoughtful about faith in God(s) in the play than most college students I know can be. Being an all-black cast added richness to the issues of slavery and oppression. I think Preisser actually improved upon Euripedes' work in the adaptation while remaining true to it, filling it out dramatically. It runs til the 25th of April so get on the A train and have an experience that's well worth $19.

nytheatre.com's review

nyt review

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