Revolution Shakespeare: Troilus and Cressida

Troilus and Cressida

The takeaways:

  • Clean cut design with clever subversion of traditionally masculine garments.
  • Can a misogynistic play written with patriarchal influence also be a commentary on misogyny?
  • Badass ensemble work

 

In my pockets:

I’m a white cis woman, and I was very excited about a Shakespeare production sans men. I’ve never worked with Revolution Shakespeare before, but I know and have worked with the designers in the past, and I’m friends or acquaintances with members of the company. I started the show a little distracted, which made it difficult to focus in the expansive outdoor arena. 

 

Design:

Lights: It’s tough to make a meal out of lights when you’re working outside, but Andrew Cowles’s lights helped us seamlessly transition from day to night.

Sound: The trouble with working with sound on an outdoor production is so much gets eaten up by expansive space. I’ve loved Daniel Ison’s work in the past, but I just couldn’t hear much in the outdoors. That being said, the soundscape provided by the actors was electric, swiftly and effectively establishing the tone of the show.

Costumes: The black bases did make it slightly trickier to remember who was who when I was still learning all of the characters (especially when some cast members played multiple characters!), but I loved the use of ties. Given that this was an ensemble of femme-presenting folks, using something associated with masculinity was a fun subversion. Doug Greene’s costumes were streamlined with just the right flourishes to reinforce characterizations.

Set: Doug incorporated the ties into the set as well, which was made up of two tents on opposing sides of the stage and a structure in the center. The structure in the center was not particularly visually striking, and I had a hard time figuring out why it was there, but I also didn’t pay a lot of attention to it during the show. I personally love basic sets, especially for Shakespeare, because it allows for an audience to use their imaginations to build upon what’s given. Doug did a great job of creating consistency between design elements.

Fight Choreography: Jacqueline Holloway’s fight choreography was clean and engaging. Her knowledge of working with varying audience perspectives is clear, as the fights were brutal and had enough “stage magic” to be believable in the moment. I’m not sure if it was Jacqueline’s idea to have the actors do sword fights without weapons (they still moved as if they were holding them) and have the weapons be held by non-fighters to be used for sound effects, but I loved it and was excited by the unexpectedness.

 

Performances:

The ensemble members as a whole were thrilling, but there were a few standouts for me. Tai Verley is always a revelation, and her Pandarus stole the show whenever she came on stage. Her text work was crystal clear, and she had such an ease with text that is difficult to achieve and all the more impressive. Similarly, Meg Rumsey-Lasersohn’s Troilus had tremendous range, but I found her work the most compelling when she was in direct address with the audience. Overall, really solid work by everyone and I wish I could go through each actor and dole out individual praise.

 

Direction:

Troilus and Cressida is one of the tougher Shakespeare plays to lift up, but Brenna Geffer’s staging helped to amp up tension in a relatively static narrative. Her guidance along with Krista Apple’s text direction gave stark clarity to the story and text. I’m guessing that she was the one who made the cuts to the script (which was considerably pared down), and I greatly appreciated her choices — this play is a dense one. Her condensing of characters and hacking away at the tangential infused the piece with necessary urgency. The downside of significant trimming is the loss of what could provide depth. For instance, Cressida’s father (who was absent in Rev Shakes’s production), is the reason that she is traded to the Greek Camp; he had defected, and he trades a Trojan prisoner in order to be reunited with her. Without that, Cressida’s treatment as a pawn has a different spin on it. I could really see Brenna’s influence throughout the show, and while that was mostly exciting, it was at times a bit overbearing.

 

Accountability – why this show now?

Troilus and Cressida is a difficult piece to stage, because it’s a lot of scenes of negotiations and men sitting around talking about other men. And for that reason, it’s a particularly difficult piece to revive, especially with the men also saying terrible things about women, posturing, and making rash decisions that affect the course of a war. I’m personally struggling with how I feel about Shakespeare these days, because it is really difficult to make something that’s steeped in misogyny and was written with a patriarchal lens be anything but a misogynistic relic — even if you stage it without men in sight. But I’m also a believer that we can look to pieces of the past to help give us context to what’s going on socio-politically in the now, so I can see how Troilus and Cressida is timely and a smart choice by Rev Shakes.

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