Euripides' play, "Troades" (the Trojan Women), was performed at the Downey Theatre on Nov. 14 attended by nearly a full crowd of Greek Americans who came from all corners of Los Angeles County and beyond.It was the only performance in the Los Angeles area. The Leonidas Loizides Theatrical Group responsible for its U.S. tour had already cut a swath across selected parts of the country, and was on its final leg that started from Seattle, proceeding to Oregon, then San Francisco, then here to Downey. San Diego was to be its last stop before going back home to its home base in Athens. The Trojan Women is about the women and children of Troy, left husbandless and fatherless and without hope right after the end of the Trojan War. The key characters in the play are Andromache, the wife of the slain Trojan hero, Hector, and the mother of the boy Astyanax who, as a further spiteful punishment by the Greeks, was soon flung to his death from the battlements; Cassandra, Priam and Hecuba's daughter who was given the gift (and curse) of prophecy (she foretold the fall of Troy, among other things, but no one believed her); Hecuba, king Priam's former queen, who bore 19 children, including Paris, Hector and Cassandra; Helen, "the face that launched a thousand ships" and the cause of all the troubles that came before, during, and after the Trojan War; Talthybius, herald of the Greeks; Menelaus, king of Sparta and husband of Helen who was abducted by Paris; and the chorus of captive Trojan women. The one scene of the play was somewhere outside burning Troy with the wailing women awaiting embarkation to separate distant parts, the only sure thing the prospect of slavery or death at the hands of the victorious Greeks. The play, as presented to U.S. audiences with music by composer Mikis Theodorakis (of Zorba the Greek fame) and translation by director Michael Kakoyiannis, was performed in (modern) Greek with English supertitles. This made for a very interesting situation. Anybody not conversant with Greek would naturally read the supertitles and hopefully catch the nuances of the actual drama being performed below eye level. As it was, the whole play (which lasted about an hour and a half, which only means that the translation was tightly compressed) was one long and often loud lamentation: Andromache bewailing her impending fate of becoming the slave and concubine of Neoptolemus, Achilles' son, as well as the sight of her son's mangled body; almost crazed Cassandra expressing her tearful grief at being claimed as Agamemnon's prize; and vengeful Hecuba's desperate cries welling from a sense of humiliation and utter loss of dignity after being allotted to Odysseus. Otherwise the lamentations of the chorus (who essentially supplied the story's background and context), and of Hecuba, dominated the presentation. Only Helen didn't weep; she instead strongly argued her case with Menelaus that she was not to be blamed for so many deaths, and so her life was spared. There were a number of English misspellings, but this didn't really sabotage the tone and flow of the story. All in all, it was a good show. To enjoy it, however, one must be familiar with the outlines at least of the Trojan War. And to fully enjoy it, one must know at least passable Greek. The presentation in Downey was sponsored by the Los Angeles-based American Hellenic Society. Information: (323) 651-3507.
********** Published: November 20, 2009 - Volume 8 - Issue 31