Online Hubbub: Trojan Barbie

Let us know what you thought!

Playwright Christine Evans said, “I’m not interested in simply taking a play and dressing it in modern clothes without creating a real dialogue between the past and the present.”  How did this dialogue between the past and the present resonate for you?

Please feel free to share any other thoughts on the production.


24 Responses to Online Hubbub: Trojan Barbie

  1. Howard Schulman says:

    Well, I have a strong interest in Ancient Greece and had just finished a set of lectures on Greek tragedy, so I was definitely interested in seeing the play, an adaption of Trojan Women by Euripides, but I was disappointed because the play was a hard to follow and unfocused. The set was cool and the acting was adequate.

  2. Sheila Dugan says:

    I loved this play. The transitions between the recent past, distant past and the present were fluid and easy to follow. I had read The Trojan Women recently, so I had a general idea of what was happening and what motivated the characters. The scene in the zoo resonated with me because I had a vague recollection of having heard the tiger story before. It helped me to connect with Lotte’s predicament/disconnect – that feeling of knowing something, but not sure where it fits into the broader scheme of things.

    I did not mind that Trojan Barbie did not follow the Euripides story; that was obviously not the playwright’s intent. Since I saw the play last night I have been thinking about the notion of collective vs. individual memory, guilt, and trauma, and what we can ever really know about the past. Were the Balkans in the 20th century different from Troy in the 12th century BCE? This provocative work will stay with me for a long time.


  3. This is a fantastic play with a beautiful set and lighting design that was completely high jacked by a weak directorial vision. So unfortunate!

  4. Brian Reis says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed the play. The concept of war, regardless of the time period, and its devastating effects on both a country and its people were very well portrayed. The set was destroyed. The characters were desperate and hopeless. Although there was no traditional linear storyline, telling the story through images was very powerful.

    At the same time, the media’s coverage of war, although also told through images is very different. Yes, any situation of war is clearly tragic but victims are merely reported as statistics or numbers, even when accompanied by photos of bloodied or lifeless bodies. Empathizing with the victims of war can be difficult, and I think the play did a good job of focusing on the human aspects of war, in particular the devastation and hopelessness involved, and how devastating it can be to the human condition in general.

  5. Michael Patrick Rutter says:

    The ART has an opportunity to find new, exciting plays … to challenge the audience … to inspire them (given the rest of Boston seems happy to sit through Dirty Dancing the musical).

    Given this, why put on such painfully average postmodern drivel. What device didn’t the play use — time travel, anachronism, overt and obvious symbolism, references to Greek tragedy (the chorus idea fell flat) and to pop culture heroes like Joss Whedon — all at the same time, feminist straw dog topics (we get the joke about the horse and the male member — that’s just not funny anymore), the Iraq war, African dictators (I think), the banality of the media and its fascination on non-heroes while it misses the bigger story, and on and on.)

    At the same time, the play manged to be stilted (don’t let grown women try to be children … it always rings false … show don’t tell … hey, miss that symbol, well let me tell you what it meant right here on stage), academic (hey look, I know my history), and ordinary (oh good, a scene with two soldiers … a tiger … and ugh, not again) … while many of the themes are lovely and potent (a lonely doll maker, women left after war, accidentally stumbling into hell (given how comfortable most of us are), the relevance of Greek tragedy today, ghosts and wounds that never heal, etc.).

    Note to the current leadership of the ART. Box the vampires from Romania, cast into concrete the wretched 1980s inspired rewrite of Cardenio, move beyond familiar banal feminist diatribes. Find some soul again. This doesn’t mean concentrating on the familiar … it means finding a way to connect again … to get lost for a few hours in the dark and be taken somewhere else.

    Trojan Barbie was a jumble sale, not a coherent narrative. There MUST be better new plays out there. If you find them, we will go.

  6. Anthony Rogers says:

    The ART at its most earnest, if not its best. Karen MacDonald was terrific, as usual.

  7. Erika DeRoche says:

    Well done ART. My favorite theme (one that Ms. Evans explores a lot) is the disjointed nature of our experiences, especially the ones which stay in our subconscious. These could be advertisements, sexual fantasies, rapes, sun tan lotion or genocides. The beautiful thing about theater is all these things coexist. Only theater admits that our flawed minds sometimes give equal significance to each of these experiences. Good direction – universally strong performances. Excellent play! Haunting!

  8. Tom Schweitzer says:

    The play was stunning. Unfortunately the audience (well, ART audiences aren’t exactly noted for their raucous approval)seemed too stunned to acknowledge the wonderful performance of the company which communicated the bitter wages of history throughout.So I want to say, “well done!” and, especially, thank you. -Tom

  9. Judith Lippard says:

    I found the play disjointed and it was hard to follow the back and forth through time. The set was interesting as usual. This is one area the ART gets right.

  10. David Richman says:

    “The past is never dead; it’s not even past.” The play sets up an important dialogue. With two corrections, one having to do with playwriting, the other having to do with direction, this dialogue would become both clearer and more effective.
    1. Directing: The acting of the ancient characters, Hecube, Andromache, Cassandra must be marked by a highly emotive classical style such as one hears and sees at the Greek theatre in Epidaurus. The actor playing Hecube is certainly capable of such; I had the impression that she was holding back. The contrast between Hecube and Lotte must be stark and always clear. This will be helped if more sound is generated by the chorus, and less sound is generated by a sound track.
    2. Playwriting: Although Hecube must visit Lotte at play’s end, the play suffers when mental hospital attendants enter to take her away. If we can dismiss Hecube as a mere mental patient,we no longer have to worry about her. We don’t need a realistic reason for her visit–any more than we need a realistic reason for Lotte finding herself in an ancient/modern war zone. Jettison the mental hospital trappings. Kudos to you for producing this difficult and important play.
    David Richman

  11. caroline ready says:

    I love Greek tragedy and found the modern Troy to be a continuation of all the sad wars that have gone before:nine build-ups and nine total destructions!
    I was moved to tears, particularly by the killing of the last heir infant son whom they had to destroy so that he would not grow up “to seek revenge.”
    The device of the lonely doll-mender wandering into a war zone accidently worked well, with our identification.
    Three cheers for the sets and for the challenge for the actors and the audience!
    caroline ready

  12. Lola says:

    I thought the character of “Polly” was well written and well played. The sets,light and music were all good. I have issues with the play starting out with light witty banter, and ending up safe and mundane with high tragedy in the middle. The concept of getting very lost while on holiday is good, but the protagonist (the doll repairer) is too marginal, and there are too many styles in one package. “The world is bleak and nasty and we’re all in danger, tee hee” No Zero Arrow productions for me next year, thank you.

  13. Matt says:

    Having performed in a modernized showing of Trojan Women a few years back, i was excited to see this version, but I must say i was a tad disappointed. The idea was a solid one, and many of the modern themes blended nicely with the story, but overall it lacked focus and direction. I am sure on paper it is a brilliantly symbolic piece, but to the average theater goer it is a bit much. I almost think that too many of the original themes were kept in that clash with the new, and perhaps that is the point, but it made for a confusing show. As usual at the ART, however, the show was brilliantly executed, technically. The acting was moderate, some better than others. I think the show could use another revision or two but over all its a great idea and a solid first premiere!

  14. Vassiliki says:

    I agree with you. This adaptation of the “Trojan Women” lacked focus and direction while the acting was unbalanced. It seems to me that the powerful character of Hecuba, in particular, has not been rendered adequately. There were some brilliant directorial choices, however, and several powerful scenes such as the ones with the young innocent girl and the two soldiers. Overall, I think there is room for improvement and I am glad I was exposed to this new piece.

  15. Howard Schulman says:

    The theater group at Brandeis just did Hecuba by Euripides by huge coincidence, and it was really very good, easy to follow, yet very stylized and artistic and more traditional. If it is still playing I highly recommend seeing it.

  16. Carlos Neu says:

    I fully agree with Tom Schweitzer’s comment posted April 5th. The play is so powerful, dramatic, stirring that when it was over my wife and I (and the rest of most of the audience as well) were emotionally spent. Later that night we felt terrible that we had not given a more generous and sustained applause for the artists. The acting was amazing, sincere and spoke right to our hearts. The set was perfect for this play and the sound very realistic. This was a very well done production. THANK YOU

  17. david edelman says:

    Was it really necessary to make us sit through this incredibly painful 90 minute torture. Every time the woman with the doll-baby son came on stage I just was hoping for her to get off as soon as possible. It all felt so over the top manipulative acting, desperately trying to make us feel the pain of war. Rubbing our faces in faked anguish for a continued stretch of time seems unnecessary, given what we already see in the news every day. What do you expect us to do as a result of seeing this?
    The acting, except for Karen McDonald, who is always terrific, just seemed contrived to push and push. Mixing in periodic flashing lights, tight garter outfits, and a few seconds of thumping music does not add life to what was a non-stop degenerative exercise.
    If we are to feel pity, we need connection. No characters in the play merited any connection except the young girl. It was too hard to care about anyone or about the play as a whole. It was not an experience I would recommend to tohers.

  18. Janet says:

    I couldn’t really add to what David Edelman has said. This play was contrived and tortuous to watch.

  19. Bonny Saulnier says:

    I couldn’t say it better than David Edelman has. Contrived, disconnected, forced, trying too hard to say something and ending up just banal and tricked up.

  20. Dennis Flynn says:

    I don’t want to seem ungrateful for my subscription. Some nice work by MacDonald, who seems to have taken a hit for the understudied team. Otherwise not worth it. Oh, to have felt at least like a supernumerary character in the onstage Seagull audience. People have been putting this sort of “avant-garde” thing on time out of mind–at least since the nineteenth century–and they keep doing it. Give it a rest, will you? There was no true dialogue with the past. Nothing but a witless caricature of history ever appeared or was even alluded to: just one damn cliche after another. It goes to show that those who can’t understand history are doomed to misrepresent it. There was one good laugh in that “outrageous” line.

  21. Lotte says:

    Karen MacDonald was enjoyable to watch. The other actors seemed to be in a drama workshop. All a bit OTT. Wanted to LOL may times. Maybe that was the point. Was hard to feel any connection with or sympathy toward the characters, even in regard to the rape and murder of a child.
    The Arrow Theatre itself is terrific. Looking forward to seeing other productions there.

  22. Susan Page-Thompson says:

    I could not say it any better than mr. Edelman. I will add that I wanted to laugh through the entire play because of the over the top acting. Karen MacDonald was great and had some touching moments, Careena Melia was a breath of fresh air when she stepped on stage but it also added to the disjointed feel of the play, you just wanted her to stay, you wanted to yell out,,Helen stay you are more fun, and than you were forced to watch those horrible . depressing overacting people..ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. Kaaron Briscoe was engaging but made me so nervous ever time she came on stage. Needless to say I was thrilled to get out of there, such is the world of art

  23. Liz Adams says:

    Thanks, ART, for producing this play. I loved it, found it deeply moving, stirringly poetic, and intelligently responsive to the world we live in. I’m a bit surprised by the tone of some other comments (and reviews). Isn’t there room in the 21st-century theatre for non-traditional dramaturgy? The liberties the play takes with time are fluid and theatrically vivid, as are the skillfully wielded mix of humor and tragedy, naturalistic and heightened language. (Though those sorts of dramatic dichotomies can’t really be considered in any way jarringly experimental—they go back quite a few centuries, to Shakespeare for one.) I loved the characters and was profoundly affected, to the point of tears, and grateful to the play for taking me on a brilliantly compassionate and far-sighted trip. As a kind of conversation (not an adaptation) with the ancient play, Trojan Barbie is urgently timely.

    The acting too was wonderful. The actors playing Hecuba, Helen, Polly X and Lotte (I don’t have the program in front of me for their names) were especially transfixing. And I thought the costume, set, and lighting design were excellent.

    By the way, my elderly mother came with me. She read Euripedes, if ever, decades ago. And she loved the play. She had no trouble following the story, was moved and engaged, and found it “powerful.”

  24. Lajos says:

    The polarization of this discussion recalls the one over the Seagull, except I come out on opposite sides on the two. I thought The Seagull was brilliant while Trojan Barbie fell flat. The Barbie title suggested the possibility of some funky humor which did not materialize. The writing did not succeed in making a lively connection between the ancient and modern elements. The directing seemed a beat or two off most of the time. The characters (excepting Karen McDonald’s) each just had one note and no development. Yes, war is awful and women probably bear the brunt, but the play did not make me feel this any more personally than the everyday news articles. My three companions and I left feeling beaten down and not in a good way. Maybe that is why the applause at the end was half-harted.

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