Review: ‘The Trojan Women’ at the Flea, still relevant after all these years
By Diana Mott, Contributing Writer, September 10, 2016
Euripides wrote The Trojan Women two millennia ago, and its relevance still astounds. It is the first anti-war play in the Western canon, and, when first performed in 416 BC, was an indictment of the Athenian invasion and massacre of the men of Milos and subjugation of its women. Ellen McLaughlin’s powerful adaptation of Euripides’ play was written in the wake of the Bosnian War as part of the Balkan Theater Project, performed by refugees from Yugoslavia and Albania. The belated premiere of her adaptation of the The Trojan Women opened last week at The Flea and is performed by the Bats, the young residents of that theater company.
The story takes place after ten years of war between Greece and Troy. The Greeks invade Troy’s impenetrable walls in a giant horse presented to the Trojans as a gift of surrender. During the night, the Greek soldiers emerge from the horse and slaughter all the men in Troy. What is left after the carnage? The women and children, of course. The Trojan Women takes place the morning after the slaughter as the women awaken to consider their fate and say goodbye to their beloved Troy before they are shipped off to Greece to serve as slaves and prostitutes.
The choreography feels distracting at times and the ensemble’s youthful energy can work against the somber themes of this very old story, but there are powerful performances. Rebecca Rad is a fine Helen, the legendary beauty who launched ten thousand ships, whom the women of Troy blame for their fate, though she considers herself a gilded victim. After being beaten, she curses them (and us) with haunting words: “Try to forget me. You will fail.” Other standouts are Lindsley Howard’s demented prophetess, Cassandra, and Casey Wortmann’s emotionally nuanced performance as the wife of the murdered Hector, who must go through the throes of anguish twice before accepting her fate.
Euripides wrote his little anti war play two thousand years ago and it is still powerful, an age-old story that we never seem to learn from. The reason for going to war pales when compared to the suffering of the innocents that follows. See for yourself: head downtown to catch the Bats performance of The Trojan Women at The Flea.
The Trojan Women at the Flea Theatre, 41 White Street, Manhattan through September 26, 2016. Tickets available at the flea.org or 212-226-0051. Written by Euripides, adapted by Ellen McLaughlin; directed by Anne Cecelia Haney. Cast: DeAnna Supplee, Rebeca Rad, Casey Wortmann, Lindsley Howard, Phil Feldman, Thomas Muccioli, Kyra Riley, Clea DeCrane, Jennifer Tchiakpe, Jenny Jarnagin, Amanda Centeno and Chun Cho.