Monday, September 9, 2019

Margin Notes: Troilus & Cressida

Seen on: Saturday, 9/07/19.
Madeline Egan Addis and Natalie Welds as Cressida and
Troilus. Photo by Valerie Terranova.
My grade: B-

Plot and Background
The Trojan War as told by William Shakespeare, including the ill-fated romance of Troilus, a sibling to Hector and Paris, and Cressida. Presented by Hamlet Isn't Dead as an all female epic.

What I Knew Beforehand
I know some remnant details of the Trojan War, and I'd seen Shakespeare in the Park's recent production of this play. And as anyone who reads this blog knows, I'm a long-time fan (and reviewer) of Hamlet Isn't Dead and their playful approach to Shakespeare.


Play: This is a weird play. It doesn't end so much as stop, and before that happens, it's this odd mix of star crossed lovers and the politics of war. A bit of Romeo and Juliet meets Julius Caesar, except neither feels finally resolved by play's end. I left the show wondering if this was one of the plays, like Macbeth, where we know we're missing chunks of text (as far as a quick internet search can tell me, nah). And that's the play itself, not a reflection on HID; it's a weird play. Sure, it's an interesting and engaging bit of battle and romance, but it's not a coherent story, and like I said, after all that it just stops. And I don't know that this particular cutting and production does anything to successfully ameliorate these issues. There were definitely times during the performance I felt I'd lost the plot, and story beats that didn't make much sense to me. And though the all-female casting of this is appealing, it's not lost on me that, in this particular cutting, all female characters except the titular Cressida have been excised from the narrative (gone is the ship-launching face of Helen, gone is the seer Cassandra). It's an all-female production with the textual female perspective all but removed. Perhaps what's more worrisome is not that they were removed (HID is good at streamlining their texts, and some male characters are also cut), but how easy it is to lift them out without affecting the narrative. Cressida may be in the title, but this is very much a story of men. 

To end this section on a positive note, hot DAMN Greg Pragel's fight choreography. From the earlier sparring bits to the final epic battle, Pragel's kinetic unarmed combat shows the performers to their most athletic and acrobatic advantage, kicking and striking and howling their warrior rage.

Cast: Overall a good ensemble, playful, open, and in tune with each other, especially in combat scenes: these women can fight. My main complaint is that the text work seems weaker this time around than I usually feel with a HID production, which probably contributes to my sense of muddle in the watching. Still among that we have a terrifically physical clown in Elizabeth McMonagle's Thersites, a heroic and aching Troilus from Natalie Welds, a cocky star in Jamie Ann Burke's Achilles, and a chuckle-inducing meddler of a Pandarus from Alison Wein.


Running: Now playing at The Center at West Park/Sanctuary Theater (Hamlet Isn't Dead) - Opening: September 5, 2019. Closing: September 21, 2019.
Category: classical play with percussive music

Creative Team

Playwright: William Shakespeare
Director: David Andrew Laws Assistant Director: Elizabeth Callahan
Designers: Alan Waters (Lighting), Greg Pragel (Fight Choreographer), Brooke M. Haney (Intimacy Consultant).
Cast: Madeline Egan Addis, Olivia Basile, Jamie Ann Burke, Ashley Burton, Lauren Cafrelli, Cato Crumbley, Erica Huang, Carolyn Kegel, Samantha Maurice, Elizabeth McMonagle, Natalie Welds, Vanessa Wendt, Alison Wien, Colleen Wood.

Samantha Maurice and Jamie Ann Burke as Ulysses and Achilles. Photo by
Valerie Terranova.

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