On Friday evening, February 2, Eastern Michigan University’s Theatre Department presented “The Trojan Women” at the Sponberg. Directed by Jennifer Graham Felts, the anti-war production highlights the women of Troy’s lamentation following the slaughter of their men and the fall of their city.
Authored by Greek playwright Euripides and adapted by Ellen McLaughlin, this 5th Century tragedy is considered to be one of earliest plays written about victims of war and is regarded as notably sympathetic toward women.
The play begins on a beach after the Greek forces lay waste to the city. Queen Hecuba and her attendants sleep as the god Poseidon walks among them, bidding them to continue their slumber as their reality is far worse than even the most terrifying dream. The women soon wake and mournfully reflect on their misfortunes brought upon them by the war.
Director Graham Felt was willing to offering commentary on the feminist tone of the play and share her thoughts. “It’s a heavy piece, which is funny because you have to remember that although this is a more contemporary adaptation, it’s based off of Euripides’ play that was written in the 5th century. So the idea of the play, the theme of the play, hasn’t changed since then. Euripides was really ahead of his time,” Felt said.
Jackie Marlett, who portrayed Queen Hecuba, echoed Felt’s sentiments. “Even though it was written a while ago, stuff like this [feminine marginalization] is still happening today,” said Marlett.
Marlett is joined onstage by a dozen actresses that includes Shelbey Seeley as Helen, Megan Liepa as Andromache, and Lindsey Scheidler as Cassandra. At least nine women students comprised the chorus. Luke Veninga, the sole male actor, acted as both Poseidon and Talthybius.
“There are so few opportunities in theatre for women to just get together. It was so powerful,” said Kelsey Booth, a junior, who expressed her pleasure with such a female-heavy production. She continued, “Women are always shoved to the side and have to deal with the choices made my men everyday.”
The performances were powerful. Poseidon’s sorrow was brought to life, by Veninga’s deep tone of voice. Marlett played a proud Hecuba, conveying a broken, yet still resilient, queen. The cursed and tormented Cassandra, played by Scheidler with dynamic style, frightened the audience as much as she evoked sadness in them. Everyone, however, from lead roles to the chorus, composed themselves with authority and emotion.
The scenery was designed by Brian Scruggs. It contributed a minimalistic touch to a classically Greek aesthetic. Broken columns and fractured steps offered a sense of what the city of Troy suffered in the conflict, damage that poignantly framed the women’s melancholy.
Lighting and projection combined to create a stunning and ethereal atmosphere. John Charles’ lighting lent additional emotion to scenes. The traumatized Cassandra, cast in sepia tones, worked very well. Kelsey Green’s projections contributed to the dream-like and hypnotic appearance of the set’s walls.
Costumes by Hayden Michael Keene consisted of simple, yet elegant, combinations of colorful fabrics that depicted the characters’ traumas.
“It was incredible,” Kaitlyn Frawley, a sophomore, shared following the performance. “I thought it was fantastic. I had to read it for a class and seeing it brought to life on stage was absolutely phenomenal,” said Frawley.
“The thing that Greek theater wants you to do is have a catharsis, a spontaneous eruption of emotion and I want that to happen; And also, to be entertained,” said Felt.
Chances to see “The Trojan Women” are available February 8-10 at 7 p.m., and February 11 at 2 p.m at Sponberg Theatre. For tickets and additional information, visit emutix.com. Recommended age is 16 years and older.