PaperStrangers Performance Group at The Irving Theatre
Directed by Michael Burke
Consistent with his Butler University training, director Michael Burke ("Medea," "Lovestories") opens his theater doors with actors frozen in place, synthesizer echoing moodily. The action begins as three men in black advance down the aisles in slow motion toward four women in burkhas who bend, kneel and stretch on a square carpet of crushed stone. Their yoga-like movements on this shifting, rasping stage provide a calming sensory experience in gentle opposition to the story's reality: These women of Troy are standing, literally, on the rubble of their homes. What follows is an antiwar drama full of stage emotion, but never as emotionally or visually entrancing as these wonderful moments. Euripides' play, which was drawn from the Iliad, focuses on Hecuba, mother of the ill-fated Paris, whose love for the married Helen launched a thousand ships against Troy. Hecuba is bound for slavery, knowing one daughter will become concubine to a king and another will be sacrificed to the slain Achilles. I don't know how much of the dialogue is Burke and how much is classic Euripides, but most of it pits four women against their Greek male foes, with much begging, threatening, and seducing. There is little sense of individual character as modern audiences expect it, but Katelyn Coyne, Jessica Strauss, Steph Gray, and Leslie Lank do well to impart the bitter consolation that life goes on, even after it feels like it has ended.