Theater review: 'The Trojan Women' at City Garage*
A high level of invention suffuses "The Trojan Women" at City Garage. Deconstructing Euripides' classic tragedy into a multifarious current-day collage, adaptor-designer Charles Duncombe and director Frederíque Michel pull few punches in the wake of burning Illium.
The geopolitical realities in Duncombe's freewheeling text range from harrowing statistics of recent genocides to sardonic swipes at our blog-infested society. Darfur, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, overpopulation, climate change and more punctuate the same gender positions that have driven this saga since its Peloponnesian War premiere.
Hecuba (June Carryl, magnificently composed) suggests a traditional African queen, clothed at the outset by title mourners whose burkas are but one of costumer Josephine Poinsot's inspirations. Cassandra (Mariko Oka) devolves from culture vulture to a naked, feral creature of website contours. Andromache (the touching Amelia Rose) turns the society trophy wife into a figure of post-millennial pathos, rending against Troy Dunn's quietly insidious Greek envoy.
And when an assured Alisha Nichols turns up as Helen of Troy, here a Britney Spears clone with nude dancing boys and hip attitude, her face-off with Michael Galvin's intense, Billy Connolly-flavored Menelaus crystallizes the enterprise. Dave Mack's empathetic diplomat, Crystal Sershen's understated Hermione and Cynthia Mance's entertainment reporter are among the other standouts in a marvelous ensemble effort.
Dividing focus between the keening women and the marauding men, Duncombe gets a slew of modern context in (Euripides is understandably absent from the credits). The approach risks overload, some things unnecessarily explained, and director Michel occasionally struggles to keep the tone consistent. Still, if the aim is to yank "Trojan Women" into our consciousness, this company benchmark, though overstuffed, is a triumph.
– David C. Nichols
"The Trojan Women," City Garage, 1340 1/2 4th St. (alley), Santa Monica. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 5:30 p.m. Sundays. No shows Dec. 14 through Jan. 8. Ends Feb. 21. Adult audiences. $20. (310) 319-9939. Running time: 1 hour, 50 minutes.
*UPDATE: A previous version of this review misspelled the first name of Alisha Nichols as Alicia.
Photo: Marika Oka as Cassandra in "The Trojan Women." Photo credit: Paul Rubenstein.