Scott Shepherd and Kate Valk as lovers Troilus and Cressida. Photos by Iris Schneider.
The Wooster Group, the avant garde theater company known for deconstructing and mashing up classic theater in a totally inventive way, is back at Redcat with "Cry, Trojans," their multi-media production of Shakespeare's obscure Troilus and Cressida. I was at Redcat to see the invigorating and elegiac production of "Gatz" produced by Elevator Repair Service, and many of the actors in "Gatz," including the narrator Scott Shepherd, are onstage currently in this production. This time around, my reaction is a lot more subdued maybe because, unlike "The Great Gatsby," Shakespeare's language is dense and harder to easily comprehend.
Wooster Group definitely has its fans and followers and many were in the audience--at least until intermission. The theme of young love was echoed in video screens above the stage that ran scenes of Warren Beatty and Natalie Wood from "Splendor in the Grass" which directly mimicked the actions of Troilus and Cressida onstage. Such staging added another layer to an already layered production which, while sometimes difficult to unravel, was never boring.
The production began with a previous collaboration between Wooster Group and the Royal Shakespeare Company in which each company worked separately until close to production time, embellishing on the theme of conflict between the Greeks played by the RSC and the Trojans played by Wooster Group. In the current independent production, the Trojans became a fictional tribe of early Americans. One element, which included masks and vests worn on the backs of the soldiers and looking suspiciously Roman, added a physical and visual dimension to the action onstage. The costumes were designed by visual artist Folkert de Young and they gave the feeling that each character carried more weight, whether real or imaginary, as they walked onstage to do battle encumbered or emboldened by their comrades on their backs.
While I don't feel that the production was a total success, I salute the creative process that Wooster Group embodies, always pushing the audience to think and imagine in new ways.
The show continues through March 9.