by Chad Jones for Oakland Tribune
/ ANG Newspapers
Love, war, satire abound in
Shotgun's `Troilus and Cressida'
By Chad Jones - STAFF WRITER
Bay Area parks are overrun with interesting Shakespeare productions
this summer. Woman's Will is doing fantastic things with "Pericles,"
both the California Shakespeare Festival and the San Francisco Shakespeare
Festival are having a go at "The Winter's Tale," and now Berkeley's
Shotgun Players have dusted off "Troilus and Cressida."
None of these plays is among the usual diet of Shakespeare, and local
audiences are all the better for it.
"Troilus and Cressida" is especially intriguing because it seems
to have been so far ahead of its time. Written around the time of "Hamlet"
and "Twelfth Night," "Troilus" remains something of a mystery
because there is no evidence of the play ever receiving a production
in Shakespeare's lifetime.
The assumption is that the play was simply too controversial, too oddly
constructed for audiences of the early 1600s. In fact, the first recorded
production of the play doesn't appear until 1898. For those counting,
that's only 104 years ago.
In the hands of the capable Shotgun Players, "Troilus and Cressida"
emerges as a bizarre, dark, occasionally beautiful play. The production,
co-directed by Patrick Dooley and Joanie McBrien, is clean, straightforward
In addition to titillating the "free Shakespeare in the park"
audience, the production also completes an intriguing Trojan War trilogy
begun with last summer's Shotgun park show, Euripides' "Iphigenia in
Aulis." Last fall, in the wake of current events, Shotgun made
a quick substitution in its December slot to make room for Jean Giraudoux's
"There Will Be No Trojan War.'
' And now we get Shakespeare's take on one of civilized man's most
Set in the seventh year of the 10-year conflict between the Trojans
and the Greeks, "Troilus" is a shallow, unsettling love story
as well as a scathing examination of empty valor and destructive heroics.
Unclassifiable in Shakespearean terms, the play is neither romance
nor tragedy nor history. It's an experiment in form that takes advantage
of an audience's familiarity with Greeks such as Achilles and Ulysses
and Trojans like Hector and Paris.
A modern audience, like the one sitting in John Hinkel Park on Saturday
afternoon, may not have all that information on hand. It's helpful to
have a program, which will set you back a buck.
You practically need a scorecard to figure out who's who among the
16 actors playing 22 roles.
The most important thing to know is that the Greeks and Trojans are
fighting for the sake of fighting. They talk a lot of blather about
honor and justice, but really they're on a decade-long testosterone
binge that has dulled them to the horrific reality of war.
The Greeks are consumed with ego-driven in-fighting, most of which
centers around famed warrior Achilles (Mark Swetz), who spends most
of his time in his tent with his lover Patroclus (Alan S. Quismorio).
Over in the Trojan camp, Hector (David Mayer) questions why they should
still be fighting a war over the ridiculous Helen (Rica Anderson), whose
abduction wasn't really worth the loss of so many Trojan and Greek soldiers.
The titular love story is interesting, but Shakespeare keeps us at
a distance. Troilus (Tyler Fazakerley) and Cressida (Frieda Naphsica
de Lackner) are two Trojans playing romantic games. He's lusty and earnest.
She's circumspect and calculating - almost as if she's a regular reader
of Cosmopolitan. They get together with the help of the yenta-like Pandarus
(a lively Reid Davis), but then the war intervenes and the lovers are
There's no happy ending here. In fact there's no ending. We only know
the play is over when an ailing Pandarus leaves us with these unappealing
final lines: "Till then I'll sweat and seek about for eases, And at
that time bequeath you my diseases."
At least the production is handsome enough. Mina Morita's triangular
performance space walled off by hanging sheets creates an insular, colorless
world amid the beauty of a park, and Valera Coble's basic costumes help
us differentiate between Trojans and Greeks.
Sometimes beguiling - usually when Cressida speaks - and sometimes
baffling - Myrmidons anyone? - "Troilus and Cressida" may not
make a lot of sense, but it makes an impression and most certainly makes
you go, "Hmmmmm."
You can e-mail Chad Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (925)
416-4853. If You Go William Shakespeare's "Troilus and Cressida"
Presented by: Shotgun Players Where: John Hinkel Park, Southampton Avenue
between San Diego Place and Somerset Place, North Berkeley When: 5 p.m.
Saturdays and Sundays; closes Sept. 1 Tickets: Free Call: (510) 704-8210
or visit www.shotgunplayers.org
Tuesday, July 30, 2002 - 1:43:44 PM MST
Original article on the web at