by DICK KEREKES & LEISLA SANSOM
Players by the Sea opened a true classic “The Trojan Women” by Eurpidies. Written and produced in 415 BC, it takes the audience on a journey to the aftermath of a war between the Greeks and the Trojans and the destiny of Troy’s women. Their husbands have been killed and their city destroyed. The women in the play, mainly members of Troy’s aristocracy, are waiting in an internment camp for their conquerors to make arrangements for their transport to Greece. Some will become common household slaves, others unwilling wives and concubines.
First time Players by the Sea Director, Katina Higgins has assembled an outstanding cast of fifteen females and three males, to perform this intense drama in a modernized setting.
A Greek play needs Greek Gods, and Poseidon (Seth Langner), God of the Sea, makes an early entrance in this play along with Athena (Katie Wann), Goddess of Wisdom, both in modern dress. Both are angered about this prolonged and needlessly destructive war, and he promises to cause the seas to rage with huge waves that will destroy Greek ships as they sail for home with their captives.
The central character is Queen Hecuba, powerfully portrayed by Robyn Neal, who personifies a woman of strength while enduring great suffering because of her family losses. The cause of the entire war was the adulterous affair between her son Paris and the beautiful Greek Helen (Sarah K. Bartlo), who was at the time married to the Greek General Menelaus (David Girard).
Hecuba’s son Hector was killed in the attack on Troy, and Andromache (Emily Shaw), in a moving monologue, bemoans his death and her future. She will have to marry the man who killed her husband, and her young son Astyanax (Dante Gonzalez) is to be killed so he cannot grow up manhood and revenge his father’s death and his mother’s fate.
Hecuba’s daughter Cassandra (Evelyn Peralta), also destined to a loveless marriage to a conquering Greek, has the ability to predict the future and relates some of the misfortunes that will come to the victorious Greeks. A truly tragic figure, Cassandra appears mercurial and mentally unbalanced.
Talthybius (Oliva Gowan) as the official agent for the Greeks, accompanied by a Greek soldier (Victor Milione) has the task of informing the women of the decisions about their fate, and the very painful duty of taking the young boy Astyanax (Dante Gonzalez) to his death and returning his body to his mourning mother for burial rites.
The Chorus of Trojan women is constantly on the stage. The anguished women, also slaves to the victors, provide a collective voice that includes background and commentary on the action. In the Chorus are Ashley Augustyniak, Charlsi Brooker, Gayle Featheringill, Megan Georgeo, Irma Gonzalez, and Gretta Russe.
The performances by the entire cast were exceptional. A special note on second grader Dante Gonzalez, who is already a veteran of two PBST plays (“Tommy” and “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof”). Young Mr. Gonzales only has three lines but does some terrific acting in the silent mode, as we see a deceased Astyanax being swathed in burial cloths and being passed from woman to woman before finally taken off the stage.
Bryan Grant, Director Higgins and Barbara Sarvis designed this unique set, with Grant supervising most of the construction. The set is could be taken from today’s headlines, with stone platforms for seating, concrete flooring, mesh wires, and piles of paper trash littered about.
Lindsay Curry as costume designer as dressed the cast in modern clothes, Hecuba in black, with most of the others in somewhat dressy dresses in dark colors, with many patches, tears, and stains. Don’t expect togas.
The evocative lighting by Jim Wiggins was augmented by a fog machine. The climatic burning of the city was impressive. Tanner Best as Sound Technician used a background soundscape at times, which added an interesting, almost new-age dimension. The helicopter and sirens toward the end emphasized the point that the drama deals with modern issues.
Players offers theatergoers the opportunity to see a play that is over two thousand years old and is considered the first anti-war play, and one that is not frequently performed. In view of the events in the world today related to continuing warfare, it is very relevant. To enhance your knowledge of what is happening on the stage, be sure to read the directors note by Katina Higgins in the program before the play.
“The Trojan Women” runs through June 23rd at 106 Sixth Street N. Jacksonville Beach. Call 249-0289 for reservations or visit www.playersbythesea.org
THE TROJAN WOMEN
by DICK KEREKES & LEISLA SANSOM