Sunday, June 1, 2008

Trojan Women Triumph

Toronto Star theatre critic Richard Ouzounian gives The Trojan Women 3.5/4 stars:

"There are many memorable scenes in The Trojan Women, which opened at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival on Friday night, but I guarantee there is one in particular you will never forget.

"Seana McKenna's Andromache has just been told that her child will be flung to his death from the battlements of Troy for no crime other than being the son of the great Trojan warrior, Hector. As the soldiers reach out to tear the boy from her arms, McKenna unleashes one of the most soul-searing sounds ever made by a human being and all that Euripides wanted us to know about the folly of war becomes clear.

"The Trojan War is over, the city is in ruins and the few remaining women, including Hecuba, once Queen of Troy, are waiting to be told which of the victorious Greeks will claim them as their slaves.

"We meet Cassandra, who has gone mad with the news that her consecrated virginity is to be sacrificed as the mistress of Agamemnon. The loving Andromache has her son taken away from her and slain, while the venomous Helen, whose lust began the whole wretched war, fights to save her own selfish skin.

"And Hecuba, once the life force of Troy, sees every last thing she loves being taken away from her.

"It's a grim catalogue of misfortunes, but when performed superbly, as it is here, it acquires a monumental resonance.

"Despite some small miscalculations, Marti Maraden has directed impeccably, liberating her performers to go the very edge of the abyss without ever becoming self-indulgent or artificial.

"The great Martha Henry's Hecuba is in total control throughout, working from a still, deep core of inner strength that allows her the flexibility to explore the full depth of her emotions, yet keeping the clarity of her speech and thought intact throughout.

"Kelli Fox's Cassandra blazes as brightly as the torch she carries, conveying her message of doom at a sustained pitch that's breath-taking.

"Yanna McIntosh turns Helen into the most seductive yet lethal of serpents, a creature you want to embrace, even though you know she could easily kill you with a glance.

"And Seana McKenna, as noted, explores the very essence of grief, but never once makes you feel she has lost control. There is also stirring work from Sean Arbuckle as the conflicted Greek herald Talthybius, and David W. Keeley, blazing with virile passion as the god Poseidon.

"Also holding the show together is the superb work of the chorus. Maraden has turned them into a powerfully cohesive unit, thanks to the women themselves as well as the music of Marc Desormeaux and the movement of Wendy Gorling.

"One could argue with the decision of Maraden and designer John Pennoyer to costume the men in 20th century military gear while the women's garb has a classic and timeless dignity. Also, the final destruction of Troy isn't very convincing, which keeps the play's final few minutes from achieving the grandeur it needs.

"But these are minor points. A great play is being acted with power by a superb cast and attention, as Linda Loman once said, must be paid."

No comments: