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A CurtainUp Review
Cry, Trojans!(Troilus and Cressida)
Cry Trojans! (without the Royal Shakespeare) is a hit-and-miss staging of the Bard's most cynical (and impossible-to-categorize) play. Helmed by Elizabeth LeCompte, the company's founder (with Spalding Gray), it's a reworking of the original collaborative project so that it emphasizes the Trojan side of the tale. LeCompte morphs the Trojans into Native Americans. In collaboration with Folkert de Jong and Delphine Courtillot who have designed culturally complementary sets and costumes (with fractured Greek statues Surreally grafted onto plate armour), she evokes a Native American tribe and their habitat.
The Greeks are not altogether jettisoned from this retooled work. The troupe appropriates the characters from the Greek camp by wearing simple masks, a traditional technique. LeCompte adds a multi-media dimension to the action via video loops of the original co-production, projected on screens above the stage. It's all reminiscent of the company's Hamlet, staged in 2007 and 2012, which incorporated a recorded video of Richard Burton's 1964 Broadway stage performance of the great classic. However, the videos in this new piece are less effective and prove to be more distracting than anything else to the actual performance.
Although I didn't see the original collaborative effort with the Royal Shakespeare Company, its partial credits included in the program. And, along with several replacements in supporting roles, the major casting difference at St. Ann's is that company member Kate Valk steps in for Marin Ireland as Cressida. Playing opposite Scott Shepherd, Valk inhabits Cressida with meticulous craftsmanship but little passion. And if there's one vital ingredient that any Troilus and Cressida needs to catch fire, it is this raw quality In short, this current staging is animated more by stylization than spontaneity. And without real chemistry sparking between Valk and Shepherd in the eponymous roles, one gets the gist of the Troilus and Cressida story but not the full dramatic impact of how their love became corrupted by their circumstances.
If Cry, Trojans! isn't emotionally sizzling, LeCompte does manage to capture this bleak play's profound cynicism and black humor. For who can forget Pandarus (Greg Mehrten), that bawdy character who lends his name to history (Let all pitiful goers-between be called to the world's end after my name: call them all panders.") Or the deformed Greek slave Thesites (Greg Hehrten),who appears on stage in a mini-wheelchair and is the picture of all human diseases?
There were conspicuously vacant seats after intermission. But no matter how any stage director slices or dices this uncongenial classic, it has never been a crowd-pleaser and the Wooster Group's latest experiment is not a home run.