‘A Trojan Woman,’ at Luna Stage, puts modern spin on Euripides’ anti-war tragedy

trojan woman review


Drita Kabashi stars in “A Trojan Woman” at Luna Stage in West Orange.

“They don’t kill civilians,” Irina mutters to herself repeatedly at the start of Sara Farrington’s powerful new play “A Trojan Woman,” which is currently being presented at Luna Stage in West Orange. Maybe if she keeps saying it enough times, she seems to be thinking, she will actually believe it.

Irina, played by Drita Kabashi, is a modern victim of war, adrift with her young son in a place that could be Ukraine, Israel, Gaza, Afghanistan or any number of other battlegrounds (it is not specified).

Directed by Meghan Finn — and previously having been presented only at an amphitheater in Athens, Greece, last summer — “A Trojan Woman” consists, mostly, of … I’m not sure what to call it. A vision? A dream? A break in the space-time continuum? But there is an explosion, Irina is knocked down and, when she wakes up, she declares, “This is Troy! These crumbling ruined walls, these heaps of rubble, this tangle of debris is Troy!” She then proceeds to present a modern, one-woman version of Euripides’ 415 BC tragedy “The Trojan Women,” which is about the suffering of the women of Troy after the Greeks won The Trojan War. (In a director’s note in the play’s program, Finn calls it “the first recorded anti-war play out of antiquity.”)

It’s an impressive endurance feat by Kabashi, who has the stage to herself for nearly an hour and has a number of emotionally harrowing scenes to make it through.

As heartbreaking as it is, “A Trojan Woman” is also quite whimsical at times. Irina portrays the sea god Poseidon as a dim frat boy; the lethargic vocal delivery and smarmy smirk she gives him made me think of Owen Wilson. The young Cassandra’s immaturity is conveyed by her singing the lovestruck Darlene Love ’60s pop hit, “(Today I Met) The Boy I’m Gonna Marry.”

The herald Talthybius seems like a fussy, impatient customer service representative taking a call. Upon meeting Queen Hecuba, he says, “My name is Talthybius and I’ll be your herald from the Greek army. Who might I be speaking with this morning?” (Perennially giving excuses for himself as he delivers pieces of horrible news, Talthybius comes to symbolize all cowards who just go along with those in power, instead of taking a stand.)


Drita Kabashi in “A Trojan Woman.”

Helping audience members keep the 10 characters in the play-within-a-play straight, Irina picks up different props, specific to each character she is playing. Most of them represent pieces of junk, strewn all over the place in the chaos of war. Poseidon, for instance, clutches a partially filled plastic water bottle; Hecuba, a laundry basket; Talthybius, a clipboard; warrior goddess Athena, a spear-like piece of pipe; two members of the chorus, umbrellas.

Irina sometimes talks to the characters herself, as in this exchange, when she questions Poseidon:

Irina: When one human was slitting the throat of another human — another member of their own species — did any gods reach down from Mount Olympus and flick the murderer into the ocean? Straighten things out? Isn’t that what gods are for?

Poseidon: I’m not sure I understand the question?

Irina: Did no god intervene?

Poseidon: Um … no?

Irina: Why not?

Poseidon: We just didn’t.

Similarly, when one of the chorus members says, “All is entropy, cruel randomness,” and the other chorus member suggests that people could work together to make it better, Irina chimes in, “But they won’t.”

Irina also gets to repeat a line, at two different points in the play, that seems to sum up Euripides’ world view: “If you are looking for sense, perhaps we are not the species for you.”

Luna Stage in West Orange will present “A Trojan Woman” through March 31, in association with The Tank NYC. (The original closing date was March 24, but the run has been extended.) Visit lunastage.org.

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