Saturday, September 01, 2012

Troilus and Cressida by William Shakespeare

This afternoon at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival was my first Shakespearean experience, not in the Elizebethen theatre, rather in the new theatre in the round. Intimate, the set and design was almost as intriguing as story of Helen of Troy part 1, 2, 3. . . . I don't think any historic character outside Mary, Jesus's mother has had as much press.

In this war story there is a romantic trias between Cressida, Calchas's daughter (Greek side) and Tolius, Priam's son (Trojan side). This romance almost forshadows the tale which is as much about honor and loyalty as it is about love and decency embodied as it were in Hector, Priam's son and Paris's father. Paris is Helen's lover. Trolius and Hector are brothers, as is Helenus. Cassandra is their sister.

I list these names and their relationships almost for myself, as it was hard to keep track of the huge cast without a cheat sheet and even then with the ensemble switching off, I still got confused.

Hector, actor Bernard White's Hector and his interaction with the Greeks, especially commanders, Ajax and Achilles, actors, Elijah Alexander and Peter Macon, was the most powerful and memorable aspect of the work directed by Rob Melrose, San Francisco Cuttingball Theatre director.

Classically trained, Melrose was a great choice to direct a work set in Iraq with all the nuances this carries. Who is the enemy when my mother is your aunt? I love the part where Hector spares Ajax and says to kill him is to cut off a part of himself.

It is Peter Macon's Achilles which is most puzzling, perhaps for the homosexual undertones implied by his relationship with Patroclus, who is killed in battle. He is overlooked in the fight against Hector, which he takes as an insult. It is almost as if, he is condemned by his relationship with Patroclus.

Even in victory his reputation is still sullied, as Hector remains, even in death honorable. I wonder about this interpretation of the relationship. It seems as if sexual overtones are given where perhaps none were intended.

Hector's body is perhaps dishonored, yet, his reputation remains in tact. Achilles's gains remain questionable, as does Cressida's quick absolution of her vows to Trolius.

Yet, the question remains: Why was Hector's killing such a coup for the Greeks?

Tonight we see Romeo and Juliet and tomorrow The Party.

One can count the black folks on one hand in the audience. Sometimes those on stage outnumber us (smile). Oregon Shakes should do something about this. My friend said when she saw Party People yesterday, the entire cast stopped to greet her.


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