USC School of Dramatic Arts; Scene Dock Theatre
By David Bridel and the MFA Acting Class of 2014
By Jeffrey Kieviet
5 Girls, 1 War
Lights up. 11 dirty, ragged, glorious bodies grace the stage. They grunt and moan, shudder and sway. Their anachronistic clothing only makes your eye more drawn to them; cargo & camo pants vs leather sewn skirts, modern wristbands and eyewear suggesting ancient warrior garments. They jump around the stage making noise, casting colorful shadows against the rock wall behind them in the glowing light. One woman is singled out, the mother of Hector & Paris, Queen of Troy: Hecuba.
After the fall of Troy, the women are taken prisoner and offered to the victors (the Greeks, or “Achaeans”) as prizes. Odysseus, King of Ithaca, ally of Achilles, and visionary creator of the wooden horse, has taken his rivals’ Queen. The play, while serving as a whole, is broken up into 5 sections to focus the events around each woman, however the events are suggestive, not to be taken literally or linearly, and flow through the story in a chaotic mosaic of time, jumping back and forth to the end of the war, it’s aftermath, and the events of the war itself. It is a beautiful painting of a play, and this opening vignette of Hecuba and Odysseus sets a serious and timeless tone for the piece, which slowly dissolves into madness as the modern idioms and avant-garde characters invade the world these people inhabit.
If you’re not familiar with the story of the Trojan War, you’ve missed out on some awesome interpretations: there’s Wolfgang Petersen’s epic Troy & Dennis O’Hare’s one man show An Iliyad, to name a couple. And one of the central figures of the war is Hector, prince of Troy. However, both of the mentioned examples do not give ample time to Hector’s wife, Andromache, and his son Astyanax. Her bundled sweater representing her bundle of joy, Andromache witnesses over and over the death of her child as it is thrown from the high walls of Troy, the last death of the decade-long war. While most of this show has a very timeless feeling about it, Andromache goes through an “inspection” before being offered to the Achaeans as a slave. This “inspection” is wholly modern with the inspectors taking up-close photographs of Andromache with their camera phone and displaying these images along the rocky back wall. It’s an interesting visual that slowly melts the timelessness of the play.
To give away Polyxena’s story would begin to disservice the plot of the play. She is one of Queen Hecuba & King Priam’s daughters, a princess of Troy. During the war, she is betrothed to Achilles and becomes his loving wife. This man was larger than life, who would be worthy of portraying such a mythic man? Surely it would take at least 3 people. And that’s exactly what they do. Using short sentences, speaking in unison and creating a larger than life presence in an intimidating and, at times, humorous manner, the 3 actors who play Odysseus, Menelaus, and Agamemnon climb on top of each other and move together to suggest they are this monster of a man. They’re able to create a person Polyxena could love, a warrior the Trojan army would fear, and a man that could make the audience laugh.
Ever hear of “Cassandra’s dream?” She dreamt about some city burning or a wall tumbling or babies being evil, something like that? Basically: if her baby brother, Paris, lived, Troy would fall. And she was right; her little brother, the pansy that he is, abducted Helen, challenged Menelaus to one-on-one combat, ran from the battle field, and is pretty much wholly responsible for the Trojan War. She tried to warn her family, tried to save the city, but no one would listen to her. And not to give away the ending, but I’ve always found it ironic that Trojan condoms represent NOT being able to get through a barrier and wreck havoc inside. Yes, babies wreck havoc, no two ways about it. Her tale discusses the idea of premonition; when you can see the future, when you know what will happen, does that make it any easier to handle? Do you have any control over a predestined outcome? See this idea and other thoughts on time travel in fiction in the upcoming Primitive Screwheads Podcast (or Poditive Screwcast as it is tentatively being called).
The face that launched a thousand ships. Helen is so beautiful, she’s blamed for all of the Trojan War. All the other women, waiting to be auctioned off as spoils of war, want her dead, want her blood as payment for the horrors of the last decade of pain & suffering. She left her husband, Menelaus, for the prince of Troy, Paris. Menelaus’ brother, Agamemnon, sends his warriors, all the Achaeans, to Troy to take back Helen and burn the city to the ground. By this point, Gods like Apollo, Athena, Aphrodite, & Hera have been portrayed like Achilles, multiple people gather as representations of these beings that are beyond mortal comprehension. But Paris is played like a classic pouf with modern inspiration from Madonna and Lady Gaga. The surrealism of this show has bloomed to such magnificence by the end of this show that they break into moments of movement, emotion that cannot be expressed in words but through lifts and dancing; it looks wonderful. I highly recommend seeing this show while you have a chance.
As of this posting, remaining performances of Trojan Women at USC are:
February 21st @ 7pm, 22nd @ 2:30pm, 26th @ 7pm, & 27th @ 7pm; March 8th @ 8pm, & 9th @ 2:30pm
This show was put together as the thesis for the class of 2014. So instead of them having to write some big paper on economics, the kids in this class just get to put on a play (or 3 plays in this case, they are also performing “Our Town” & “Tartuffe”). That sounds awesome! If I’d known that option was available, maybe I would have stuck with school. I would have loved to put on a performance to pass my poli-sci final, staging a mock presidential debate is far more fun than cranking out an 8 page essay the night before, all hopped up on Ritalin and passing out on your desk the next day. And a mock presidential debate takes just as little research as a real debate. Anyone watch that Ken Ham fiasco? That dude was really disappointing. Bill Nye rocks. And that is all I have to say about that.
Written by David Bridel and the MFA Acting Class of 2014
Directed by David Bridel
The MFA Acting Class of 2014
Thomas Anawalt, Bradford Barnes Jr., Jamie B. Cline, Claudia Elmore, Cecilia Fairchild, Corey Johnson, Kendall Johnson, Ana Pasti, Tarah Pollock, Daniel Rios Jr., Dee Dee Stephens