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Theater review: 'Troilus and Cressida' at the Whitmore-Lindley

February 9, 2012 |  4:37 pm

Eliza Kiss, center, and the cast of "Troilus and Cressida."
In "Troilus and Cressida," those ever-audacious Porters of Hellsgate take on William Shakespeare's rarely produced Trojan War oddity. The results typify the assets and liabilities of both company and property.

Director Charles Pasternak has edited this multifarious play -- the third longest in the canon -- to just over 2 1/2 hours without losing narrative focus, a feat in itself. As is his wont, Pasternak uses the various levels of the Whitmore-Lindley Theatre Center to smart effect, starting with a riveting tableau vivant prologue led by Helen (Eliza Kiss), she of the thousand-ships-launching face.

Designer Jessica Pasternak has a costumer's field day, leather vests, khakis and diaphanous gowns turned Grecian/Trojan with clubster chic. The entire large cast brings admirable determination and physical abandon -- most notably Napoleon Tavale's Hector and Matt Calloway's Achilles -- to the Bard's study of Troilus (Alex Parker) and his seriocomic romance with Cressida (Taylor Fisher) amid the bloody seventh-year turnaround of the iconic conflict.

Conversely, the work's mix of humor, violence, politics and poetry is anomalous to the extreme. Many passages echo more celebrated plays -- Romeo and Juliet on the balcony, Henry V in his tent on the eve of battle, and so forth -- only to pale by comparison, and the prologue's power doesn't exactly sustain and build thereafter.

For all their verve, the players lack a unified mode of iambic delivery, from Dylan Vigus' wildly thunderous Ajax to Jacques Freydont's sitcom-zany Pandarus to Kate O'Toole's Strindberg-worthy Cassandra, and Parker and Fisher's chemistry is more technical than visceral. Nonetheless, it's a nobly intended effort, and nobody's fault that Euripides got there first.

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-- David C. Nichols

"Troilus and Cressida," Whitmore-Lindley Theatre Center, 11006 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays. Ends Feb. 19. $20. (818) 325-2055 or www.portersofhellsgate.com. Running time: 2 hours, 35 minutes.

Photo: Eliza Kiss, center, and the cast of "Troilus and Cressida." Credit: Rob Cunliffe.

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