Curtain Critic: Space 55’s “Trojan Women” is beautiful, emotional and tragic

There’s not much light to be found in an ancient Greek tragedy, but the ever-inventive Space 55 infused the tale of the Trojan War with its own unique flair—including gorgeous technical tricks with stage lighting.

“Trojan Women” explores the aftermath of one of history’s most famous wars. Although the abduction of Helen (played by Marina Sharpe) famously launched a thousand ships and triggered a devastating battle between Greece and Troy, in this play Helen is just one victim among many. As the wives and daughters of Troy’s slain heroes await their fates, the Trojan queen Hecuba (Alejandra Luna) leads the despairing band of women through their anguish and lamentations.

For a story written almost two thousand years ago, “Trojan Women” still resonates deeply, especially thanks to its cast’s passionate performances. Alexandra Johnson’s Cassandra is the perfect blend of fragile and dignified. The Trojan princess, cursed to predict true prophecies but never to be believed, speaks in a voice that goes from whispery to ragged as she expresses excitement for her future death.

Bray Lawrence is proper but threatening as god Poseidon and King Menelaus, Helen’s husband who wants revenge for her betrayal. As Andromache, the widowed bride of the Trojan prince Hector, Bridget Russell is a picture of grief: She is grim and aloof, proud of her former status as the mother of Troy’s future leader, yet visibly weighed down—her movements slow and her features full of sorrow. She moves like a ghost, but she speaks passionately when she argues that it’s better to be dead than a slave of Troy’s slayers.

One by one, members of the cast leave the stage, escorted away by Talthybius, the Greek herald who bears the terrible news of the women’s fates. Hannah McKinnon portrays the messenger as a grim and serious figure who is unflinchingly steadfast to the Greeks’ cause, but who also shows sympathy for the women’s sorrows.

Costume designer Paige Lockwood’s looks infuse a modern style into the cast’s designs, suggesting that the devastation of war is timeless. The warlike Talthybius wears a white and blue windbreaker and black combat boots; Cassandra wears flowing, floral clothes that reinforce her ethereal nature; and Andromache’s dark blue dress is transparent at the bottom, suggesting the ghostly mindset she’s in after being taken away.

A lot of thought goes into the little details in Space 55’s production of “Trojan Women.” After each woman leaves, she leaves behind a scarf, a reminder that even when tragedy tears people away, their memory still affects those who are left behind. Set designer Adam Sanders’ stage design is covered in ropes that hang across the stage, which reinforce the story’s themes of slavery and fear. His backdrop of a stylistic horse immediately establishes the setting and gives the audience an idea of the majesty of Troy before it was burned to the ground.

Another outstanding technical choice was to decorate each character’s face with UV-sensitive light. Makeup designer Sydney Lee crafts creative, colorful designs on each of the characters’ faces, which glows when the lights go down. The result is eerie and utterly captivating. It adds a beautiful visual flair that makes the themes of “Trojan Women” seem even more otherworldly: Although the Grecian gods interfered in the lives of mortals, those who were devastated by the Trojan War went down in history, becoming mythical figures themselves.

Director Jason White’s production of “Trojan Women” is stylistic and heart-wrenching. The technical talents highlight the story’s enduring qualities, and the cast’s talented performances illustrate the horrors of war. Though 2,000 years old, the human response to overwhelming tragedy remains the same: Some crumble, some endure, some fight back—but all remember what once was and what never will be again.

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