Studio Theatre-Mead Theatre, 1501 14th St NW
Saturday, July 16, 2:30p.m.
Tuesday, July 19, 6:30 p.m.
They say: “A bold new musical inspired by the classic Greek tragedy. Follow five women as they fight through times of conflict and violence, and watch them start their own little wars. Written by Broadway artists Michael Boynton and Brian Allan Hobbs.”
Ali’s Take: The women of Troy have undergone so much: abuse, capture, torture, and the death of loved ones, not to mention that tough little tiff called The Trojan War. Why, then, must they also take on the gargantuan task of hurling through time to endure every hardship that womankind has ever suffered throughout human history?
This question begs to be answered during Pallas Theatre Collective‘s new musical The Many Women of Troy. Writer Michael John Boynton has bitten off more than he can chew, and the resulting piece comes off as melodramatic and misguided. At two hours, Many Women drags as the five female cast members jump from one century to another. No tragedy is left unexploited as Cassandra, played by Maggie Donovan, leads the pack of Trojan women from Columbine to the Willamite War of Ireland to the home of a McCarthy Era housewife to Ancient Rome to a jousting tournament in Medieval times to Auschwitz to… you get the point.
The musical score, composed by Brian Allan Hobbs and performed live by a three-piece band, has its bright moments, such as the melodic dirge “The Battle of Boyne” or the clever vaudeville number “Start a Little War,” performed by the saucy Ellis Greer playing Helen of Troy.
Yet overall the music, much like the story, lacks a unifying thread. The two main numbers, “Last Night” and “So Many Women,” reprised throughout the show, share a similar style to many of the songs: simplistic, maudlin and disjointed. The far-fetched premise of Many Women throws together five characters of Euripedes’s The Trojan Women: Hecuba, her daughters Cassandra and Polyxena, her daughter-in-law Andromache, and Helen of Troy. In this version, Cassandra’s prophetic abilities allow her to travel through time, along with the other women, and witness the cyclical mistakes of history. The other women fall into roles that embody female suffering: the weary mother, the abandoned wife, the overshadowed youngest daughter. But Cassandra remains lucid through it all as our narrator, commenting in vain on the tragedy of it all.
The Many Women of Troy begs its audience to respect it as a tragedy, but with its amorphous staging, shoddy design and copious instances of melodrama to the point of histrionics, we simply can’t. There are few fine acting moments, but most of them belong to Donovan or to the actress playing Hecuba, Charlotte Di Gregorio, who addresses the audience from time to time through heartfelt monologues. Tracy Haupt‘s Andromache has a lovely voice but little stage presence, and Juliette Ebert tries hard to be effective as Polyxena, but ultimately struggles with the material.
And honestly, who can blame her? For one scene she’s sitting in a guidance counselor’s office talking about her brother Paris being shot at Columbine; for another she presents an interpretive dance in front of a screen onto which facts about worldwide violence to women are projected. If anything there should have been a lot less of the projected Powerpoint, which caused myriad sound issues while displaying trite photos that represented places or even personal snapshots from the actors’ lives that were meant to represent their long lost loved ones.
It’s difficult to highlight the good qualities of The Many Women of Troy, which are few and far between. The show is way too long for Fringe and definitely too far-reaching in depth and content. There is definitely talent here, with a few catchy tunes and lovely voices to sing them, but ultimately the exercise in time travel becomes exhausting and even laughable. It’s hard to take a tragedy to heart when the plot jumps all over the place without rhyme or reason. It’s as if we are expected to feel emotion strictly based on the remembrance of tragic historical events. And that’s simply impossible. If the Greeks taught us anything, it’ss that we need a cohesive chain of events, a simple story to grasp onto. This is exactly what The Many Women of Troy is missing.
See it if: You ever wondered what would happen if Marty McFly and Helen of Troy took a tragic vacation together.
Skip it if: You struggled through World History in 10th grade and reliving the final exam just might push you over the edge.