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One of the most interesting aspects of Shakespearean drama is the ease with which one can apply a modern and more practical lens to the situations and subject matter within his plays. For all his grandiose verse, he wrote about human beings in a way that hasn't been oft replicated since. The most obvious example of this is Romeo and Juliet
, where we are presented with a supposed tale of epic romance and love, unrequited passion and desire, death, glorious death; but if you break it down and approach it with the tiniest iota of cynicism, looking at the characters themselves instead of the overreaching themes, you're left with two amorous teens who whine and pine about each other and then haphazardly kill themselves in the name of a love that is more based on lust and hormones than anything else; do they even really know each other? Do they need to? The peanut gallery at the Globe probably laughed about the silliness of it all at the pub afterward.
Troilus (played by a dashing, brunette DiCaprio, Finn Wittrock) and Cressida (a barefooted and sprightly Dylan Moore) are no different in their passionate expression of their hormones from the other teen lovers, but their childishness is even more apparent. As Cressida is traded to the Greeks to secure the release of a nominal Trojan soldier, she asks Troilus more or less if their love will stand this test, and he says, in so many words, "Of course mine will, but seriously, don't get it on with any of those Greeks over there because that would definitely suck for me." There is no true love, because there is no trust—there is no trust because love is merely an idea that Troilus and Cressida enjoy (not to mention sex). These are stunted teenagers playing with adult emotions and should be played accordingly. But the lines are delivered with a painful slowness and gravity that belies a lack of understanding in the irony of the text; Troilus was so exhausted from crab-walking after Cressida all over the stage of sand that he no longer had the strength to deliver the much needed frantic nuance to make it all worthwhile.
A group of sextagenerians (or thereabouts), who I had overheard talking about the last time one of them had performed in Troilus and Cressida
(presumably before The Age of Iron even began) walked out at the intermission. "This is absolutely terrible," I heard one remark, hobbling down the aisle with the assistance of a cane. Maybe it was because the players wore S&M-like black leather tunics (bad-ass!), or that Achilies had a mohawk (sweet!), or that they were all tattooed in tribal patterns (hell yeah!), or maybe even offense was taken at casting Patroclus as a woman (calling the nature of Achilles and the former's relationship into question more directly than even Shakespeare did), or the bizarre soundtrack (think of Gladiator
's wheat field flashback death scenes)—or it just may have been the fact that they were expecting Shakespearean drama and weren't prepared for the sleek update or the coarseness that Heywood would add to the script and the toll the physical action would take on the actors.
At least, I think, the audience has a good time watching. The epic tales in this play are time tested and are good stories and it's hard to mess that up, but attention still needs to be paid to the details of the verse and their delivery, no matter what you're mashing together, no matter how extensive and complicated the production. It was only after the war ended (sort of, only because everyone died—I think some leaders might take a cue from this if they were smart, that everyone being dead is not a good reason to finally pull out, or pride the reason to start a war) that Ulysses, played by the show-stealing and astute Steven Skybell, addressed the audience and seemed to get it right. You could see the actual fatigue in the way he stood, the despair in his voice, and the question in his eyes: The war had been fought over now dead men's pride and a woman who shared the same fate, and much like the audience asked itself on the way out the door, so to did Ulysses—What was the point?
(photo credit: T. Charles Erickson)