William Brown, director of the American Players Theatre production of “Troilus and Cressida,” notes that it is a play “that has no verified success before the twentieth century.”
There’s probably a reason for that, though the reason why the play’s fortunes improved is a bit hard to discern.
Somehow, William Shakespeare, who has some reputation for writing drama, made the Trojan War appear boring.
The play is set during the seventh year of the war between Troy and Greece. Helen of Troy is in Troy and the Greeks want her back. The Greeks lay siege to Troy for seven years.
In the middle of all this, Prince Troilus falls in love with Cressida – but Cressida’s father is a traitor who schemes to get her back to the Greeks.
Included in the cast of characters are Achilles, Ulysses, Ajax, Hector and, of course, Helen.
So, you think this could be pretty good theater.
And it does have some good parts. The concluding battle is APT at its best. The stage is filled with Greeks and Romans swinging swords and clashing shields. People die gory deaths. It is a fine battle.
Many of the actors do well. Jim DeVita, who plays the part of Cressida’s Uncle Pandarus (it’s the only role he has this year aside from his one-man play, “In Acting Shakespeare”), is both funny and convincing and, when he does a song and dance to “Nothing But Love,” he is hilarious.
Laura Rook, who is in her first season at APT, is a charming Cressida. In fact, all the actors do their jobs. To my mind, Greta Wohlrabe is over-the-top as Cassandra – but that has to be more a reflection of what the director wants than of Wohlrabe.
It’s just that the play doesn’t come off.
Finally, just to pile on a bit, the costumes leave the APT actors bare-chested and bare-legged and most of them need a bit more make-up. Your average APT actor, if this play is any example, is so pasty-white they could serve as pin-up boys at a dermatologist convention. Since the action takes place among Mediterranean soldiers, that just doesn’t seem convincing.