The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.1788 Wednesday, 18 July 2001
Date: Tuesday, 17 Jul 2001 09:28:21 -0700
Subject: 12.1776 Re: Cressida
Comment: Re: SHK 12.1776 Re: Cressida
Harry Teplitz wrote:
>On another topic, I urge everyone to see the Ashland festival's Troilus &
>Cressida. Director Kenneth Albers has created a magnificent show. It is
>exciting and tender,
>funny and horrifying. It demonstrates razor sharp clarity in the use of
>the text and stage imagery; one would never guess that the play had ever
>been called "a
>problem". This kind of production is the reason that Ashland enjoys
>its stellar reputation. As an extra treat, in the performance I
>attended (July 1), Albers substituted for the regular actor in the role
I saw it a few days before you, and while I found it interesting, I have
to disagree. This may, in part, be a matter of interpretation.
The show very clearly takes the view that Cressida really is a whore.
This is made explicit by the staged parallels of Helen's gown in the
beginning and Cressida's at the end. Both women are above in the
embrace of the wrong lovers, and the long train of their gowns fall to
the stage below. Lovely image, but to equate Helen with Cressida in
this way misses the point. Helen is used as a contrast, as I understand
the play. I do praise the actor playing Cressida for playing a bit
against the production. She had a complexity in the scene where she
parted from Troilus that the show lacked over all, and that Troilus also
lacked. She had played Cressida before, and I wonder if she brought
something over from that production.
It had other staging problems. Achilles speech to his lads, telling
them how to kill Hector, was addressed to the audience. Since most of
them don't know he has a band to do his bidding, wouldn't those new to
the play be confused? And why did Pandarus bequeath us his diseases at
that point? There was a lot of moving lines and scenes around to tell
the story plainly (the director explained to me and a few others), but
should Pandarus really tip his hand so early?
There was one amazing moment. It was when Cressida arrived at the Greek
camp where she was greeted by the Greeks and her father. As her father
exited, there was a shocking sadness. He knew what was about to happen,
and could not bear to watch. Wow.
That was my first thought. My second was, then why did he put his child
in danger by having her brought there? Playing it that way did not
work. There were several scenes that didn't work. Another was the
scene with Pandarus, Helen, and Paris. Albers decided to set it in
their bed, with Pandarus interrupting. Cute for the first few minutes,
but it became tedious, one joke told too many times as the couples ardor
was interrupted, renewed, interrupted, renewed, etc.
Of course many problems in a play can disappear when you cut 25% of the
text, as was done here. The debates in 2.1 and 2.3 were simplified, of
I hope this does not sound condescending, and I honestly don't mean it
that way. Harry, I'm glad you enjoyed it so much. Who wants to have a
lousy time at the theater? I think your reaction is great. I wish I
could share it. For me Albers show missed the complexity and nuance
that is in the text, favoring an interpretation that does a disservice
to the character of Cressida, and also misses the point of the play.
I'm glad I saw it, but I'm even more glad I have seen better.
BTW, I've seen three of this years four Shakespeares, and was under
whelmed by them all. None were actually bad. Merely fair. I'll see
*Merry Wives* in early August. I hope that will be better.
All the best,
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