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Home :: Archive :: 1992 :: September ::
D.C. Troilus
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 3, No. 227.  Monday, 21 Sept. 1992.
 
From: 		William Kemp <
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Date: 		Sunday, Sept. 20, 1992, 20:52:23 EDT
Subject: 	D. C. Troilus
 
I've just returned from the first production of the season by
The Shakespeare Theatre, which used to be The Shakespeare Theatre
at the Folger. The play is *Troilus and Cressida*, and I agree fully
with the *Washington Post* reviewer that the production is outstanding.
 
Director:	Bill Alexander (RSC 78-91; now Artistic Director
		of the Birmingham Rep)
 
Set/Costume Designer:	Kit Surrey
Lighting Designer:	Nancy Schertler
Composer:		Adam Wernick
Fight Director:		David Leong
Vocal Consultant:	Elizabeth Smith
 
Ajax		Bernard Addison
Paris		Firdous Bamji
Nestor		Emery Battis
Troilus		Mark Conklin
Cassandra	Franchelle Stewart Dorn
Cressida	Gayle Finer
Andromache	Kate fleming
Menelaus	Eric Hoffmann
Pandarus	Floyd King
Aeneas		Michael Laurence
Thersites	David Manes
Priam/Calchis	Robert Murch
Helen		Pamela Orem
Agamemnon	Jack Ryland
Hector		Daniel Southern
Achilles	Timothy Stickney
Diomedes	Hank Stratton
Ulysses		Ted Van Griethuysen
Patroclus	Craig Wallace
 
The unit set suggests a post-modern apocalyptic world: sandy, barren,
pillars reminiscent of the classical past but made out of oil drums;
jeep tires half buried, like debris of warfare. The hand weapons are
remanufactured modern artifacts: Diomedes fights with short swords which
use hub caps as hand guards, Ajax with an old rifle that has half a saw
blade set into its stock. The Greeks wear vaguely British-looking desert
battle fatigues, the Trojans black pants with leather vests and forearm
guards. Off the battlefield, the Trojans wear vagule Turkish-looking
harem pants and black vests with black applique decorations. The total
visual effect is very striking -- simultaneously classical and modern.
Nothing we see clashes with the dialogue, yet visual echoes of both
the Gulf War and Viet Nam flicker through the production without
overwhelming it or intruding.
 
For example: Achilles, Patroclus, and Ajax are played by good young
black actors, while all other Greeks (especially the command staff)
are white -- just a hint of Viet Nam without forcing the parallel.
Diomedes' hair is dyed bright blond and he often wears sunglasses --
almost a stereotyped Army Intelligence careerist, but again the
parallel is low-key.
 
Ryland plays Agamemnon as competent but puzzled, Battis' Nestor is a
bit of a windbag but intelligent nonetheless, Van G's Ulysses is far
and away the most perceptive of the Greeks. Achilles is powerful but
vain, and completely unscrupulous. More interesting are the Trojans.
Floyd King's Pandarus is wonderfully conceived and presented -- jaded,
decadent, but without real evil intent. The POST reviewer didn't like
Gayle Finer as Cressida, but I thought she made the part work: despite
really loving Troilus, she accepts Diomedes because she has to --
attracting and holding a man is the only way she can protect herself.
 
The audience (nearly a full house) listened quietly to the long
speeches, gasped a couple of times at striking lines, laughed at
most of the jokes, and seemed thoroughly engaged. Nothing about the
play seemed antique, academic, or even broadly "cultural." It came
across as a strong play about interesting people caught up in
important events. It's the best Troilus I've ever seen.
 
Bill Kemp
Mary Washington College
Fredericksburg, Va.

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