Collingswood Shakespeare Company Stages the Fall of Troy

The Haddonfield Monthly Meetinghouse hosted two productions by the Collingswood Shakespeare Company that trace the fall of Troy.

Shakespeare’s “Troilus and Cressida” and Euripedes’ “The Trojan Women” offer distinct perspectives on the tragedy, but both underscore the senseless horrors of war.

The action in “Troilus and Cressida,” unfolds in the midst of a decade-long battle that began when Helen deserted her Greek husband, Menelaus, in favor of Paris, a Trojan prince.   Shakespeare’s play, which begins lightheartedly, ends on a tragic note with the death of Paris’ brother, Hector, and the disaffection of another brother, Troilus, from his beloved Cressida.

“The Trojan Women”picks up the story after Troy has been sacked, and follows the widows of Trojan warriors, who lament the loss of their men and their city and wait to be taken away as slaves to the Greeks.

The productions inventively intersperse humor and pathos, ancient and modern.  A contemporary song, Stephen Stills’ “Love the One You’re With,” offers a powerful illustration of Helen’s perfidy toward her husband and the agonizing compromise Cressida must make after being separated from Troilus.  And the Greek Commander Ajax extends an open box of donuts to the audience, highlighting the inane mindset of a callow warrior.

“There is nothing noble or honorable here; no higher purpose, no general good to be served,” Director Douglas Overtoom writes in the production program book.  “The reasons for the war are petty; the perpetrators venial; and the majority of victims innocent.”

Overtoom directed overlapping casts, with common characters played by the same performers in both productions.  HMM’s own clerk of the meeting, Drew Biehl offered glimpses of comic relief, playing Cressida’s uncle in the Shakespeare play.

In the fall, Overtoom said, a refashioned troupe called the Repertory Shakespeare Company will launch its first productions at the meetinghouse: “The Merry Wives of Windsor” and “The Two Noble Kinsmen.”  Stay tuned!

Submitted by Sarah Greenblatt

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