Trojan Women spotlights the challenges for women during war


BURN DOWN THE HOUSE. Hecuba (Alison Mitchell) delivers her final monologue amidst the ruins of the burning city. The other Trojan women lie in defeat, her only audience. She uttered the final line of grief “The war begins, for me” (smugmug)

The Greek tragedy The Trojan Women tells the dramatic history of how Trojan women were killed and taken as prizes after the fall of Troy.

US Theater Director Eric Severson adapted the script by adding soldier monologues of first-hand accounts from World War I, World War II, Vietnam, The War in Iraq and the current Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The play started with a powerful monologue from Poseidon (Oliver Zhu) and a heavenly song from the chorus echoing through the Huss Center from the catwalks above, which gave the effect of angels singing. It was lovely to hear and signaled the post-Trojan War setting.

Hecuba (Alison Mitchell), queen of the royal Trojan family, spent most of her time on stage in a demanding performance that began when she called out for the other women, a moment that calls both the Trojan women and soldiers to the stage as Talthybius (Soren Miller) sets the conflict with an announcement that the Trojan women now belong to the Greeks. The delivery of each line from Hecuba and Talthybius emanated a powerful presence that left the audience feeling a chilling tension.

Severson blocked the scenes in a series of tableaus, and during the performance, there are moments that could be a photograph. One such moment came when soldiers stood in line on a platform upstage, still and assertive, showing the full danger of Talthybius’ power as the Trojan women wept, frightened, praying to the gods.

Monologues feature prominently in the play, giving members of the ensemble cast moments in which to shine. In particular, Cassandra (Maggie Fried), who is being sent to lie with the king, delivers a monologue showing her despair, breaking down as she shares her inner feelings that no man will want her. Fried’s expressiveness in mood and movement, culminating with ripping flowers out of her hair, built empathy and elicited audience concern.

But there is no relief. Andromache (Clea Gaïtus Sur) delivered her personal tragedy in this atrocity: her child will be killed so he cannot grow to avenge Troy. Andromache begs for mercy, knowing she can’t do anything to save Astyanax (Rafa Razavi). She held her son, hugging him goodbye.

One of the most visceral moments in the show came when Gaïtus Sur lets out an ear-splitting scream as she and Razavi are dragged off stage, Astyanax is slaughtered, and Andromache enslaved. Gaïtus Sur’s projection expresses the agony of not only her pain but also of the other Trojan women’s pain.

For those familiar with the history, the delayed appearance of Helen of Troy (Valerie Wick) reveals she is the cause of the Trojan War and the reason these women were now being sold off to new men. Wick depicts an almost sympathetic antagonist. While a key player, Helen’s scene consists of her trying to convince her husband, Menelaus (Leo Sampsell-Jones) that the Trojan War was not her fault.

Wick used intense eye contact and body language, placing her hands on Menelaus’s face to persuade him to her cause until Hecuba rose up against her, followed by the rest of the Trojan women, circling her, shouting insulting names until Hecuba yelled a final insult and shocked the audience with the crack of a slap to Helen’s face.

The rage-filled culmination of the scene came with one of the most memorable and chilling lines from Hecuba to Helen: “You are the most beautiful monster this world has ever seen.”

From the colors of lighting that set the mood to the delivery of each line from the actors, every detail of The Trojan Women elicited so many levels of emotion from the audience, who could be heard, at varying points, gasping or ominously silent.
Small details, like walking in a rhythmic unison from the soldiers,and the scared expressions of the women, showed how inner dialogue could be expressed without words.

The modern adaptation with monologues from primary accounts of soldiers woven throughout made the play all the more mesmerizing.

Severson wrote in the program that the mission of modern monologues is to remind the audience that war has not changed since the fifth century, when the play was written.

The lack of microphones left actors to project their voices so the entire auditorium could hear, which is impressive, but at times, it was difficult to hear some of the soldiers’ monologues, especially if they were standing toward the back of the stage. In specific parts, the importance of the modern messages from these soldiers was missed, as a result.

The Trojan Women performance sent chills through Huss and left the audience speechless. While tragic, it was a triumph.