Monday, August 10, 2009

New Review Posted: The Hecubae

A new review is up on Centerstage: The Hecubae, a new play that combines Euripides' Hecuba with stories of contemporary women who are the victims of war. I feel bad giving shows like this a negative review, because the subject matter is so important, but plays that spell everything out just aren't very dramatic. Subject matter isn't enough. Still, there is some good stuff in the show, and the play did move me to make a donation to a charity helping female war refugees in the lobby, so maybe it did its job. Text of the review is below:

It's easy to understand why Euripides' "Hecuba" is so appealing to adapters, dealing as it does with women rendered powerless by war and destroyed by the men who control their fates. Making the connection with women oppressed by war throughout history is almost too easy.

Unfortunately, despite some powerful moments, Jeffrey Bouthiette and Rebekah Walendzak's "The Hecubae" falls into the trap of making every connection and parallel explicit, robbing the audience members of any chance to make discoveries for themselves.

The script shifts between two parallel stories—that of Euripides' play and a story set in a contemporary Internally Displaced Persons camp, apparently populated with refugees from several recent and current wars. The Greek story focuses on Hecuba, former queen of now-conquered Troy. She has lost almost all of her children, and when she finds that the two she has left have also been taken from her, her revenge is grisly. The scenes in the camp seem more a vehicle for stories taken from actual accounts of refugees. It's hard to find a central plot thread, and aside from the setting, it has little connection to Hecuba's story.

Bouthiette (who also directed) and Walendzak have mixed success in welding the stories together. Some sections have a blunt, harsh power, but more often the intended poetry falls flat. By far the best moments are when the women sing - suddenly, their situation comes to real, complex life, rather than resembling a lecture. The cast give a real sense of life to the characters and have created a powerful sense of ensemble, though none entirely escapes the production's limitations.

It is unquestionable that the plight of women in war zones is a horrible one, and any effort to give attention to that is laudable. Unfortunately, "The Hecubae" is far more successful as lecture than it is as theater.

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