Troilus & Cressida – War, Infidelity, War, Did I Mention War?!

Another reframed Shakespeare play, another 13 (I counted) helicopters disturbing performance (these can’t be rerouted?!), another frighteningly lifelike battle utilizing explosions and assault rifles?!

Troilus & Cressida appears to have been selected and certainly was staged to shock. A lengthy combat scene is viscerally difficult to sit through. At a time when war, increased local violence, lack of gun control and terrorism are ubiquitous in the news, it strikes me that subjecting us to something so theatrically realistic and compelling, achieves the complete opposite. Is this something to which we want to become inured?!

Troilus- Andrew Burnap, Pandarus- John Glover, Cressida- Ismenia Mendes

This is also a piece rife with testosterone-filled exposition; long episodes of men comparing muscles (a euphemism), swearing, and daring. A particularly odd choice. Having said that, acting and staging are skillful and energetic.

The latter part of the Trojan War: After playing footsie awhile, with the matchmaking help of her uncle Pandarus (John Glover), spunky Cressida (Ismenia Mendas) and earnest, boyish Troilus (Andrew Burnap) admit to and consummate their love. Shortly thereafter, she’s the object of prisoner exchange ending up in a Greek camp hotly pursued by Diomedes (Zach Appleman) to whom she turns, either attracted or in survival mode.

The Company

Because of a promise to his lady?! the great Greek soldier Achilles (seamless last minute replacement Louis Cancelmi) refuses to fight, choosing instead to remain in his tent with his lover Patroclus (Tom Pecinka), listening to heavy metal music. Powers-that-be trick him into one-on-one combat with Troilus’s brother Hector (Bill Heck) by first sending in the played-as-stupid-and-obtuse Ajax (Alex Breaux) who loses without shedding blood.

It’s not clear what the fight will accomplish, but at the Greek camp, Trojans and their hosts remain in peaceful truce. Troilus is led to spy on Cressida by trouble-making Ulysses (Corey Stoll), a civilian advisor who times it so that the Trojan will observe his girl with Diomedes. She’s accused of perfidy by her boyfriend and storms off.

In this version, Achilles then challenges Hector for a national rematch out of pride, though synopses found online indicate he does so to revenge Patroclus’ death which is attributed to Hector. Wounded, he also loses. Grisly war resumes. At the end of the piece, like Caesar at the Forum, Hector is surrounded by Achilles men and ignominiously knifed to death. Troilus mourns him kneeling in a pool of his brother’s blood. We never find out what happens to Cressida.

TROILUS AND CRESSIDA By William Shakespeare Directed by Daniel Sullivan Featuring Zach Appelman (Diomedes); Tala Ashe (Helen, Andromache); Connor Bond (Ensemble); Alex Breaux (Ajax); Andrew Burnap (Troilus); Max Casella (Thersites); Andrew Chaffee (Ensemble); Michael Bradley Cohen (Ensemble); Lee Edward Colston II (Ensemble); Paul Deo Jr. (Ensemble); Sanjit De Silva (Aeneas); John Glover (Pandarus); Jin Ha (Ensemble); David Harbour (Achilles); Bill Heck (Hector); Hunter Hoffman (Ensemble); Nicholas Hoge (Ensemble); Edward James Hyland (Nestor); KeiLyn Durrel Jones (Ensemble); Maurice Jones (Paris); Forrest Malloy (Ensemble); Ismenia Mendes (Cressida); Nneka Okafor (Cassandra); Tom Pecinka (Patroclus); Kario Pereira-Bailey (Ensemble); Miguel Perez (Priam, Calchas); Corey Stoll (Ulysses); John Douglas Thompson (Agamemnon)

Ulysses-Corey Stoll and Ajax- Alex Beaux

Andrew Burnap and Ismenia Mendas, the show’s peripheral lovers, are natural actors  with appealing chemistry, especially when in denial. Manly Bill Heck (a perfect movie Superhero) imbues Hector with dignity as well as confidence. Alex Breaux’s dumb Ajax is played with absolute credibility. Ulysses (Corey Stoll) is appropriately slimy. Stuck in caricatures, David Harbour (Achilles) and Tom Pecinka (Patroclus) ably carry out the director’s vision. Any play with the splendid John Glover is, to me, worth attending. Here the actor is warm, elegant, and occasionally playful as Pandarus – completely at home with Shakespeare.

Director Daniel Sullivan uses the mostly empty stage evocatively. His solders, with few exceptions, are cliché coarse and/or officious displaying no individuality. (Much of this may be the writing.) I don’t understand the compulsion to insert the currently requisite man in ridiculous drag and several flamboyant gay soldiers. As depicted, war is skin curdling.

TROILUS AND CRESSIDA By William Shakespeare Directed by Daniel Sullivan Featuring Zach Appelman (Diomedes); Tala Ashe (Helen, Andromache); Connor Bond (Ensemble); Alex Breaux (Ajax); Andrew Burnap (Troilus); Max Casella (Thersites); Andrew Chaffee (Ensem

Troilus-Andrew Burnap and Hector-Bill Heck

The play is performed in modern dress (David Zinn) which barely registers a blip (so acclimated are theater-going audiences) until soldiers take the stage in recognizable fighting gear.

Mark Menard’s Sound Design is aptly unnerving.

Sound like fun? The curious should be prepared.

Photos by Joan Marcus
Opening: Diomedes- Zach Appelman and Aeneas- Sanjit De Silva (center) and the Company

The Public Theater’s FREE! Shakespeare in the Park presents
Troilus & Cressida by William Shakespeare
Directed by Daniel Sullivan
The Delacorte Theater- Enter at 81st Street and Central Park West
Through August 14, 2016

In person at The Delacorte
Downtown at Astor Place
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About Alix Cohen (990 Articles)
Alix Cohen is the recipient of eight New York Press Club Awards for work published on this venue. Her writing history began with poetry, segued into lyrics and took a commercial detour while holding executive positions in product development, merchandising, and design. A cultural sponge, she now turns her diverse personal and professional background to authoring pieces about culture/the arts with particular interest in artists/performers and entrepreneurs. Theater, music, art/design are lifelong areas of study and passion. She is a voting member of Drama Desk and Drama League. Alix’s professional experience in women’s fashion fuels writing in that area. Besides Woman Around Town, the journalist writes for Cabaret Scenes, Broadway World, and Theater Pizzazz. Additional pieces have been published by The New York Post, The National Observer’s Playground Magazine, Pasadena Magazine, Times Square Chronicles, and ifashionnetwork. She lives in Manhattan. Of course.