Center Stage with Pat Launer on KSDS JAZZ88
AIRDATE: JANUARY 30, 2009
The grimmest of ancient tragedies meets a quirky modern comedy. Strange bedfellows, indeed. But these are schizophrenic times. So if you wanna get down one night and get high the next, here’s your dramatic opportunity.
“The Trojan Women” was written by Euripides in 415 B.C. And every time this darkest of anti-war dramas is shown, alas, it has contemporary relevance. First produced during the Peloponnesian War, the play is a bleak and penetrating depiction of the barbaric behavior of the playwright’s own countrymen, the Greeks, toward the women and children of the city of Trojans they vanquished.
In this vivid new translation by Dr. Marianne McDonald, the centerpiece is Hecuba, Queen of Troy, who suffers unspeakable horrors. Her city has been sacked, her husband and children killed, her young grandson is flung from a parapet, and she and her and remaining daughter (and daughter-in-law) are about to be given away as slaves. The monstrous acts are just heaped one upon the other, in a relentless stream of cruelty and violence. It’s a story that’s repeated every day in the headlines; women are victimized around the world, in appalling and unfathomable ways. Our hearts are torn apart by the torment of these war casualties, but even at an intermissionless 90 minutes, it’s hard to endure the unremitting agony and sorrow. A soundscape of wailing, moaning and keening underscores the ion theatre production. There isn’t much action or tonal variety, though the performers are filled with the requisite angst and anguish. These women accept their fates stoically. Not much catharsis here, but there is the faint hope that suffering purifies the soul.
It’s amour that purges hearts and souls in “Love Song,” an offbeat black comedy recently written by John Kolvenbach , rife with raw, rancorous dialogue. A workaholic couple is awash in biting repartee. They clash especially over the wife’s brother, Beane , a misfit who can’t survive in ordinary society. His sister constantly makes excuses for him, though her husband thinks, as the audience does, that his intermittent moments of insight aren’t enough to keep him from a diagnosis of clinical depression, autism, or worse. He lives in his own world, in a tiny, empty apartment furnished with nothing more than a chair, a spoon and a cup. Sometimes, the walls literally close in on him, in a highly imaginative scenic design. And then, something really crazy happens. Beane falls in love, and everything changes — for him, his sister, his brother-in-law, their relationship and their world-views. There’s a bit of fantasy in this flaky, lusty comedy, which Cygnet Theatre pulls off with aplomb, thanks to a crackerjack cast.
If you’re suffering from political-economic moodswings , so is San Diego theater , where you can match and gratify your every mental state.
“The Trojan Women” runs through the weekend, at ion theatre’s Lab space near SDSU.
“Love Song” continues through February 22, at Cygnet Theatre’s Rolando location, also near SDSU.
©2009 PAT LAUNER