Monday, August 10, 2009

Trojan Women at SPP

Posted on Mon, Aug 10, 2009 at 11:54 AM

By Thomas Jenkins

San Antonio Current theater critic

A freak of nature--now known in these parts as 'rain'--prevented an opening weekend review of the San Pedro Playhouse's THE TROJAN WOMEN, but I did manage to catch last evening's final performance. I'm still not sold on the San Pedro Springs as an inviting locale for outdoor theater--it's an awkward, sprawling space with, essentially, a huge chasm in the middle--but in its current desiccated state, it actually functions as an apt mise-en-scene for the razed and blighted city of Troy and the sorrows of its captive women. As for direction, Gypsy Pantoja's vision couldn't be more straightforward: simple ancient props, simple ancient costumes, and unpretentious acting. The biggest interpretative problem with the play, of course, is tone: Aristotle (famously) lambasts plays that have no real beginning, middle, and end -- but, of course, that was Euripides' point: that war itself has no beginning, middle, or end, and that the plight of Trojan women will be replaced, ineluctably, by the plight of Athenian women; and German women; and Vietnamese women; and Iranian women.

The evening falters badly on its (uncredited) choice of translation, which may well have been Gilbert Murray's archaizing version, full of "thees" and "thous" and "thines" and tortured syntax. To the extent that Trojan Women de-mythologizes Troy into the realm of the natural and colloquial, this translation couldn't have been less appropriate, creating an artificial barrier between the lived experience of Trojans and San Antonians. (With so many good, modern, and clear translations of Euripides published in the last 20 years, why go with something so obfuscating? A modern audience, after all, needs all the help it can get.) The acting is all over the place, but special kudos to Joan Fox as Hecuba, as formidable--and, in the end, as tragic--as Troy itself.

It's refreshing to see the Playhouse branch out from Shakespeare into different authors and styles, though certainly one change is in order: why have outdoor theater in Texas in the summer? Is there some sort of animus against October? Pushing things back two months might necessitate the construction of a lighting plot, but at least we'd be avoiding triple-digit weather. For the love of god, at least allow the Trojan women an occasional cool breeze -- it's the least we could do.

--Thomas Jenkins

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