The walls are down, and there’s nothing left now but the wailing. The refugees of Ellen McLaughlin’s searing The Trojan Women, adapted from Euripides’ grimly timeless tragedy, wait in ragged limbo outside Troy—a paradise burned to the ground—to be ushered into hellish new lives as the prostitutes and slaves of their conquerors. In the play’s most vivid scene, they are visited by the adulterous Helen (Rebeca Rad), rendered here through a modern lens of disgraced celebrity. “Behind every man who took me stood a goddess / Who steadied his hips and whispered in his ears,” she reminds them, but the women will not be placated; in McLaughlin’s account, the vengeful Trojan queen, Hecuba (DeAnna Supplee), urges the chorus to beat Helen to a pulp.
The pained clarity and blunt poetry of McLaughlin’s text retain some power even when delivered in a horse of wooden acting. With few exceptions—such as Casey Wortmann as Andromache—the young actors of the Bats, under Anne Cecelia Haney’s earnest direction, lack the gravitas to pull off this material, and the intimacy of the Flea’s tiny basement theater is unmerciful. They give it the old college try, but the result, alas, too often evokes college theater.
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