The Trojan Women

How does this 2400-year-old drama stand the test of time?

By Andrew Andrews

Alexandra Petrova in CENTERstage Productions’ presentation of Euripides and Richard Lattimore’s The Trojan Women, adapted and directed by Lou Trapani. Original photos by Rachel Karashay.

The Trojan War is over; the Greeks have won.

Now it’s time for the victors to divvy up the spoils—and since these are Ancient times, the spoils include the women.

Dethroned Queen Hecuba will become a slave to General Odysseus. Her eldest daughter, Cassandra, will be concubine to conquering General Agamemnon. Hecuba’s widowed daughter-in-law, Andromache, will become concubine to Neoptolemus. And so on… and so on... and so on…

With its basis on such Greek mythology as Homer’s Illiad, The Trojan Women’s premiere in 415 BC won second prize at the City Dionysia. In addition to countless revivals over the past 2,400+ years, a 1971 film adaptation starred Katharine Hepburn and Vanessa Redgrave, winning them the Kansas City Film Critics Circle and NBR Awards for Best Actress, respectively.

The large cast also includes Victoria Howland, Josephine Grant, Charlie Latino, Ronnie Joseph, Vera Perry, Emily DePew, Lauren Silverman, Alex Skovan, Jeremy Ratel, Joshuah Patriarco, Josh Ezra, Molly Feibel, David Dancyger and Geneva Turner.

Perhaps it is both a blessing and curse that classical Greek plays are rarely performed for modern audiences—at least compared to Shakespeare and the plethora of Broadway has-beens.

A blessing because—let’s be honest—storytelling in general, and theatre in particular, has come a long way in the past two millennia. Modern playwrights have a better understanding of what makes for a compelling story, and shows today must offer more than a moral wrapped in a historical reenactment to sell tickets and fill seats.

Yet it’s also a bit of a curse, because without the occasional reminder, we lose sight of the origin of modern entertainment. Ancient Greek theatre is at the root of the Western tradition; even the word theatre is from the Greek theatron, and the term thespian refers to the earliest known actor, Thespis.

Before the modern musical ensemble, there was the Greek chorus.

Before there was scenery, there was the skênê–a backdrop hiding the actors as they changed costumes.

Even the word orchestra referred not to the band, but to the stage where the performance took place.

This specific production is something of a half-hearted hybrid between a truly classical and modern interpretation. The Greek warriors wear desert camo and point assault rifles; other costumes are a mix between olden and contemporary. The opening discussion between the goddess Athena and god Poseidon is presented as a walkie-talkie conversation that’s a little hard to follow. But the chorus is there, with just enough choreography to make it arsty, and the actors delightfully portray their characters with professionalism and respect for the genre.

Although this 24-century-old play may not be the most thrilling performance you’ll attend, The Trojan Women could be the most important show for you to see all year. Not only is it a valuable reminder of the history of theatre; not only is it an interesting excerpt from Greek mythology: it’s actually an engaging story, and just when you start to wonder how much longer it will be, the ending leaves you hanging, wishing there was more.

4

Andrew Andrews attended The Trojan Women at The Center for Performing Arts in Rhinebeck on Saturday, August 20, 2022 @ 8:00pm to write this review.