Author: Juliet Wittman

WESTWORD: Review: CSF’s Troilus and Cressida Turns Problem Play Into a Pleasure

Director Carolyn Howarth has put together a lively production that moves forward to a martial beat, features some terrific swordplay and swarms with interestingly eccentric characters.

(Above: Austin Terrell Ajax in “Troilus and Cressida.” Photo by Jennifer M Koskinen.)

I didn’t want to see the Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s production of Troilus and Cressida. I had seen the play once before — and read it as a student — and vaguely remembered the plot, though almost no details. Still, I knew it was a problem play that sits somewhere between tragedy and history (some people would say comedy too, but I don’t see it), with a plot that feels oddly fractured and disappointing, and characters you don’t care much about — including Troilus and Cressida themselves. The play’s apparent meaning is summed up by the lecherous, disease-ridden Pandarus and the ugly-spirited, belligerent Fool, Thersites — and it’s pretty bleak.

There’s a sort of eat-your-spinach feeling about attending a production of a difficult play like this. You go to see it in part because it’s a change from the endlessly returning Hamlets and Midsummer Night’s Dreams, and in part in the same dutiful way you decide to read a ponderous collection of Kafka’s letters because you love his novels and fables. These may not be his best writing, you reason, but they provide insight into his art. So I took my seat in the pleasant outdoor Mary Rippon Theatre on opening night, grumbling, but also grateful for the opportunity to understand Shakespeare more deeply.

Surprise: The plot actually hangs together well enough in this show, though you never get really invested in the outcome; it begins in the middle of the Trojan War and ends with the fighting still unresolved. But director Carolyn Howarth has put together a lively production that moves forward to a martial beat, features some terrific swordplay and swarms with interestingly eccentric characters.

The title promises a love story, but this is love gone sour. In the early scenes between Troilus and Cressida, Cressida’s uncle Pandarus, who’s responsible for bringing them together, takes most of the focus. Howard Swain makes this pimp of a character both funny and disgusting. Cressida’s declaration of love when she’s finally alone with Troilus is so brief …read the full article here.

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