Monday, June 2, 2008

Women Are "Intense", "Brilliant"

A brilliant review of The Trojan Women from Toronto Sun critic John Coulbourn:

"Regardless of who wins, it always seems to be the women who lose at war.

"Once the battles are done, not only will each side have its share of mothers, wives, sisters and daughters left to grieve the fallen dead, in the camps of the vanquished, the women historically face further horrors as the victors take their spoils in an excess of rape, murder and torture.

"In too many arenas, that's the way it is today and sadly, that's the way it has always been. For proof, look no further than Euripides' The Trojan Women, a play penned almost 25 centuries ago that finally had its Statford Festival premiere on the Tom Patterson stage Friday in a smart new translation by Nicholas Rudall.

"Set in the days immediately following the final battle of the Trojan War, where a beleaguered Greek alliance snatched long-overdue victory for the belly of a horse, The Trojan Women, as its title implies, is set in the camp where the women of the vanquished Trojans are now held.

"Principal amongst them are the aged Hecuba (Stratford veteran Martha Henry), widow of the fallen King Priam, her mad daughter Cassandra (Kelli Fox in an impressive debut), her daughter-in-law, Andromache (Seana McKenna), the widow of her son Ajax, and Helen (Yanna McIntosh, making a long-overdue Stratford return), the woman whose love for Hecuba's son, Paris, sparked the war that has just ended.

"With the full weight of Greek revenge about to fall upon them, it seems that they must also shoulder the wrath of the gods, for in conquering Troy, the Greek army has angered both Poseidon (David W. Keekey) and Athena (Nora McLellan), who now conspire to take their revenge -- and even the vanquished will not be spared.

"To bring this tale to life, erstwhile artistic director Marti Maraden has assembled what can only be described as a dream cast, fleshing out her quartet of brilliant actresses with a largely impressive supporting cast. Sean Arbuckle plays the role of Talthybius, the Greek herald while young Ronan Dante Rees proves a heart-breaker in the tragic role of Astyanax, son of Andromache.

"Meanwhile, Jane Spidell and Trish Lindestrom head up a chorus comprised of Tessa Alves, Joyce Campion, Naomi Costain, Kelly-Ann Evans, Lesly Ewen and Severn Thompson, and Brad Rudy is cast as Menelaus, cuckolded husband of fair Helen.

"Lit by Michael J. Whitfield and simply designed in an uneasy fusion of historical, ethnic and modern military styles by John Pennoyer, this is a production aimed at showcasing an abundance of talent -- and in that, it is hugely effective.

"From Henry and McKenna, Maraden draws superb performances, largely free of the mannerisms that have afflicted much of their work in the recent past. Maraden then fuses their work seamlessly with powerful and deeply affecting turns from Fox and McIntosh to maximum effect.

"In supporting roles, Keeley hits the stage in full flight, launching things on an impressive, almost earth-shaking note of barely contained rage, while in the thankless role of Talthybius, Arbuckle too manages to shine.

"In fact, the only disappointment in this extensive talent pool is Rudy, delivering up such a wooden performance as the husband wronged that one is left with the impression that this whole Trojan War might have been avoided had Helen's husband been a better actor -- but happily this is a small part.

"In total, it is, not surprisingly an intense affair, but a brief one, clocking in at just over 90 minutes. But thanks to a stable of brilliant actors and Maraden's fine husbandry, it is 90 minutes that will linger in your mind and your heart forever. "

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