Director Michael Burke has done it once again. In his latest offering to the Indianapolis arts community, Burke has taken the heartbreaking Greek tragedy Women of Troy–originally written by the playwright Euripides around 415 B.C.–and made it his own. The show will play throughout the weekend at the Irving Theatre on the east side of Indianapolis in historic Irvington.
Women of Troy is the third part of a trilogy Euripides wrote which focuses on the Trojan War and its aftermath. In the final tragedy the audience learns the fates of the women of Troy after their city has been sacked, their husbands killed, and as their remaining families are about to be taken away as slaves.
Burke, a graduate of the Butler University Theatre Department, employees a minimal set to help tell this painful story. Thus, he relies heavily on the acting prowess of the thespians who have nowhere to hide on stage. A risky move that pays off exponentially for Burke. With no distractions to draw away their attention, the audience is immediately swept away in the anger, outrage and pain these women put on display.
As soon as you take your seat in the Irving, you become part of the show. All of the action takes place on a 12′ by 15′ bed of crushed stone, used to symbolize the once great city of Troy which is now nothing more than a smoldering heap of rubble. You are no longer in downtown Indianapolis, but rather transported back in time nearly 2500 years to front gates of Troy, as if you have somehow stumbled upon the actual events taking place.
Katelyn Coyne plays the motherly part of Hecuba beautifully by being able to show the compassionate side of motherhood, all the while displaying the anger and rage of a woman whose life and loves have just been destroyed. Adding to the mounting tension in the theatre is Steph Gray’s portrayal of Andromache. Gray spends the first half of the play in what seems to be her own invisible world of madness. Such suspicions are confirmed when she finally does speak of the horrors paid to her and her city.
Not to be outdone, Jessica Strauss’ performance of Cassandra at times is bone chillingly real. There are moments in which you forget she is acting and you want to run to her rescue.
As gruesome as the story is, Burke has woven a sensual strand into the fabric of this play. Helen, aptly played by Leslie Lank, not only seduces King Menelaus, but the audience as well. If the real Helen was this bewitching, it is easy to see how such wars are started.
The role of Menelaus is brought to life by Daniel Barnes who does admirable job. Christian Meyer’s portrayal of Talthybius is the most convincing by any of the male actors, as he showed the character’s inner turmoil over fulfilling his duty and doing what he thinks righteous. And David Deye as the solider adds to the overall performance in a positive manner.
The final character used in this play won’t be found in any of the countless treatments and translations you might find, but is unique only to Burke’s version. The musical underscore that accompanies this show is always there to keep the audience intertwined with the story, even when the action is none. It plays the part of constant companion, yet in no way detracts from the product on stage. This is a thin line to walk, yet Burke and his cast achieve it effortlessly.
Women of Troy is just the latest offering of Burke to the Indianapolis arts world. In just the past year, he has directed Media–which was part of the 2009 Indyfringe Theatre Festival–as well as the Susurrus Performance Group‘s show Love Stories. To prove he is a benefit to the Indianapolis performing arts scene both behind the curtain as well as in front of it, Burke displayed his acting chops in NoExit Theatre Company‘s retelling of Antigone last year, which took place in the gardens of the Lilly House and the grounds of the Indianapolis Museum of Art.
So if you are going to be in the Circle City this weekend and you find yourself looking for things to do in Indianapolis, look no further than Women of Troy playing at the Irving Theatre on Indy‘s east side.
Burke took a risk in his no-frills approach to this clasic story that exceeds all expectations. In doing so he has created a new version of an old tale that will leave Indianapolis performing arts fans wanting more.
Women of Troy
Thursday-April 8 to 10, 2010
5505 East Washington Street
Indianapolis, IN 46219