Lauren is exquisite as Hecuba, a crumbling pillar of the once great city. She leads the audience through loss after loss, navigating the thin line between forbearance and despair until she can teeter no longer, and the wail that escapes as she mourns the death of her infant grandson is nothing short of devastating. Akiko Aizawa as Hecuba's mad, visionary daughter Kassandra has a wild vulnerability, and the simultaneous girlish sweetness and pitiful damage she embodies is crushing. Makela Spielman's Andromache is every bit the mother, drawing her strength from the infant strapped to her chest. And when Andromache is forced to make the ultimate sacrifice, Spielman plays her inner turmoil with exceptional delicacy. Statuesque may be too weak a word to describe Katherine Crockett's glamorous Helen. Almost inhuman in her quest for self-preservation, she wraps the weak-willed Menelaus (J. Ed Araiza plays the ego-wounded warrior with admirable dexterity, and his eventual surrender to Helen's charms is all too believable.) around her fingers with cold, clear calculation and sexuality that she wields like a weapon. Gian-Murry Gianino is awful in all the right ways as the brash, self-important Odysseus. What he lacks in sympathy he makes up for in ego. His cruel and self-aggrandizing attacks on Hecuba are acted with razor-like focus and the charm of a man with the utmost confidence in himself and ultimate disdain for those beneath him. Barney O'Hanlon grounds the tragic circumstances of the play with his gentle portrayal of Hecuba's loyal servant (who also serves as the chorus). And even Leon Ingulsrud's thankless role of the Envoy is played with precision and truthful stoicism. And his excellent revelation of the fate of Andromache's infant son beautifully communicated the dumbfoundedness that too often accompanies such a death.
Director (and SITI Company Artistic Director) Anne Bogart's retelling of this centuries-old piece is delicate, insightful and immeasurably human. She resists the melodrama of the already devastated that so often haunts performances of this piece, preferring to tell a story of women who are clinging to the vestiges of their former strength - refusing to let go until they just can't hold on any longer. There is fight in these characters yet, which makes their eventual end all the more tragic. The score - composed and performed by Christian Frederickson - is evocative and effective, seeming to express in music what Hecuba can barely bring herself to express in words. Melissa Trn's costumes provide a compelling image of the decadent world of the Trojan women that is now lost forever. James Schuette's lighting is as spare and powerful as the set, painting the bleak, post-war landscape with stark shadows and too much truth.
Trojan Women (After Euripides) is gone as quickly as it came, as there were only two performances. And the impression it left was one of astonishing beauty and heartache. And the plea for human feeling in the face of so much destruction is a cry that I sincerely hope echoes beyond the walls of each theatre to which they tour.
For more information on the UMS 2013-2014 International Theater Series, visit http://ums.org/tickets/2013-2014-season-listing.