A few days after seeing the Pandora myth hilariously skewered, we were back at Studio, this time to see the story of the Trojan Women hammered in. This is the second modern take on them we’ve seen at the Fringe Festival(the first was a couple of years back), and this time it was turned into a musical and literally expanded into modern times, as Cassandra, as narrator, started having visions of women losing men and/or their own lives across history, and inserting herself, Hecuba, Andromache(and Astyanax), Helen, & Polyxena into scenes from Ancient Rome and the Crusades to Columbine and 9/11(apparently writer Micheal John Boynton & composer Brian Allan Hobbs originally came up with the idea then), exploring the first two as they’ve been explored before, giving a voice to the often forgotten Polyxena(and noting her continual silence; one skit even literally made her mute), and making Helen more or less more evil with each passing appearance-until the penultimate skit, when she breaks and is revealed to be damaged and desperate herself, with the note that she probably shouldn’t be blamed for what the men have done.
Some of the skits were better than others. High points included whenever Ellis Greer as Helen had the stage(and her tribute to William Randolph Hearst benefited from good timing, what with Murdoch now in the news), Hecuba’s speech in a Victorian gentlemen’s club where she draws attention to the violence of a time and place generally thought not to have any, and Cassandra taking on an open mike in a setting that seems oddly unspecified by the program…until the time and place suddenly becomes shockingly clear. A few others, especially near the end, get too heavy-handed and over the top, and while all four of the women were impeccable actresses, they weren’t perfect singers, and when the music became more difficult or the band too loud, sometimes they rose to the occasion, but sometimes, especially early on, they did not. And unfortunately, the ending stopped working once Astyanax turned out to have miraculously survived 9/11(that’s not a spoiler; he’s listed in the cast and before then had only appeared as a bundle of cloth, so you knew he was coming), redeeming Helen in the process as a firewoman, and it becomes clear Boynton & Hobbs couldn’t bear to give it the final blow that would have probably made it a better piece, but instead tried for an uplifting ending that instead falls flat.
Still, the more effective scenes will haunt the mind afterwards. It’s worth checking out for those who like Greek myth, or just want to enjoy their Fringe experience in the air conditioning. But try to get tickets for Pandora first.