With The Trojan Women, Odeum Theatre Company presents a tragic and beautiful tale of war, brutality, ego and heroics.
The play, originally written by Euripides in 415 B.C. and modernized by Choregus Productions' (the umbrella company for Odeum) director Ken Tracy, opened last weekend in the Tulsa Performing Arts Center's Liddy Doenges Theatre, 110 E. Second St., and features a stand-out cast of some of Tulsa's best actors and actresses.
Odeum's version of the play opens with David Lawrence, as Poseidon, setting the stage for the story to come, telling the story of the Trojan War, of how the Trojans were celebrating their good fortune when the Greeks, hidden inside a Trojan Horse, stole inside the Trojans' fortress and attacked, killing the men and children and capturing the women for themselves.
During his speech, sounds of war are heard, and the Trojan women, dressed in gowns and cocktail dresses, are dragged on stage by soldiers in modern fatigues.
Cassandra (Cassie Hollis), daughter of Hecuba (Sally Adams), Queen of Troy, is raped by one of the men.
Poseidon is furious at the incident, as is Athena (Meredith Pergason), who, initially siding with the Greeks, is offended at Cassandra's rape on her altar and vows to avenge the Trojans.
This portion of the story was not originally part of Euripides' script but was smartly added by Tracy to provide modern audiences with some context.
In addition to more modern language and perspective, Tracy and the show's director Erin Scarberry added songs from the 20th Century repertoire, which, because of the way they were directed and performed, blended smoothly with the ancient tale, almost as though they'd been part of it all along. Lawrence opens the show with "September Song."
During his song, the Trojan women are dragged on stage in chains, chains that become instruments during a rendition of "Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen."
The women are devastated, weeping and wailing at the injustice done to them. Even with so many women on stage, Scarberry has done a good job of individualizing each one, so that the chorus is less a chorus and more a group of women, each with her own soul and personality.
Scarberry also rearranged Euripides' script, which originally was a series of monologues, to allow for more dialogue, making it more interesting to modern audiences.
Still, each of the play's prominent characters -- Hecuba, Cassandra, Andromache (Sara Cruncleton) and Helen (Annie Ellicott) carries a substantial amount of the play's weight, and each does so with grace and ease.
Adams is brilliant as Hecuba. Her misery at the loss of her husband and children is tragically moving, and her entire performance is completely enrapturing. Her belting rendition of "Victor Nelson's Cotton Field, Elgin, Texas, 1940," is one of the best moments in the play.
Hollis, as Cassandra, also gives a stirring performance. Cassandra has been cursed by the gods with a gift for seeing the future, a gift that has driven her mad. But, in her madness, Hollis is not only believable but also easy to empathize with. She is not just mad; she is a young woman tormented by her madness.
As Andromache, wife to Hecuba's son Hector, Cruncleton, mourning the death of her husband and son, is also poignant, as she wishes for death over her current fate.
Although the play is about the Trojan women, the Greek men, as their captors, also play a major role in the tale, especially Thalthybius (Whitson Hanna), who arrives in the first act to divulge the women's fate.
Although he is a brutal character, he provides much of the comic relief in Odeum's version of this play.
Menelaus (Will Carpenter), the Greek king of Sparta, appears on the scene at the play's end to take back his wife, Helen, who is accused of being the cause of the Trojan War after she leaves Greece for Troy with Paris.
Menelaus arrives to take Helen back to Greece where she is to meet her death. She begs and seduces her husband, attempting to convince him to spare her, but the other women, her co-captives, help convince him she is deserving of death.
Although these main characters gave performances deserving of mention, each member of this cast played an important role, and there wasn't one bad performance to be had.
The only element of the production that felt out of place was Tracy's insertion of commentary on the brutality of war, as told by two soldiers (Joel Cheatham and Rob Harris) who recount terrible episodes of collateral damage during war.
While the sentiment behind the telling was understood, it was a little out of place, obviously a modern war tale. The same statement could have been made, and more appropriately made, if it had fit in a little better with the ancient story being told.
While The Trojan Women, so emotionally wrenching, isn't easy to watch, it is worth watching. It would be a brave choice for any company to undertake, and Odeum does so smartly and sensitively.
The play continues May 27-29 at 8pm and May 30 at 2pm. Tickets are $25 at www.tulsapac.com.
More on Stage
Also at the PAC this weekend, May 27-29, Theatre Tulsa presents Ernest Thompson's On Golden Pond in the John H. Williams Theatre.
In it, Norman and Ethel Taylor have returned to their summer home on Golden Pond in Maine for the 48th time. They are visited by their adult daughter, her boyfriend and his son, leaving the child, while they vacation in Europe.
In the months that follow, the entire family's relationships with one another will be tested.
The cast features Don Miller, who also directs, Billy Sue Thompson, Lisa Porter, Josh Soltis, Brad Morris and David Guard. The show begins each night at 8pm, and tickets are $16. More information is available at the PAC's website.
Friday and Saturday nights, TwoLips Burlesk, presents "a night of naughty nautical burlesque babes" in "Octapussy-a-go-go" at the Nightingale Theater, 1416 E. Fourth St.
In addition to burlesque, the evening features variety performances and a comedy act by Hilton Price. Nikki Le'Chapelle emcees the event, which begins at 9pm and is intended for adult audiences. Tickets are $10 and available at the door.
Find more information at www.nightingaletheater.com.
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