Review: NEYT does courageous and important work in ‘Hecuba’
By WILLIAM MENEZESThursday March 10, 2011
Though the tragedies of Euripides are 2,500 years old they still resonate in the minds of today’s audiences -- particularly when one views them in the light of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and conflicts in Northern Africa. There is an enduring fascination with his plays and their basic questioning of mankind’s actions and how they influence such concepts as honesty, revenge and free will, absolute power, guilt and honor.Euripides forces us to look closely at our personal moral code and how it affects the choices we make in our lives. New England Youth Theatre’s production of Euripides’ "Hecuba," directed by Eric Bass in an accessible and compact (one-hour long) interpretation and his cast of 9- to 13-year-olds, accurately pinpoints many of these ethical concerns.If you are unfamiliar with the Greek myths and the story of the Trojan War, here is a brief synopsis. Hecuba was the Queen of Troy and gave birth to many children with her husband, King Priam. Their son, Paris, seduced and then abducted Helen, the wife of Menelaus, a Greek king. Menelaus with his brother Agamemnon formed an alliance and led an army from all the Greek city states to invade Troy to get Helen back. After a protracted war, featuring many familiar warriors, such as the Greek Achilles and the Trojan Hector, Troy was defeated and all its men killed.This is where Euripides’ "Hecuba" begins, with the queen, her daughter Polyxena and a chorus of Trojan women left as prisoners of war. The Greeks tell Hecuba that they wish to leave Troy, but the ghost of Achilles haunts their ships and they must sacrifice Polyxena to appease his ghost. After that they will be able to sail back to Greece. On top of this horror, Hecuba finds out that her youngest son Polydorus, under the care and safekeeping of the King of Thrace, is murdered by his presumed protector because of the promise of gold. The play continues with Hecuba on a path of revenge.Given the exhausting nature of the lead role, Bass has wisely cast three young women Eve Pomazi, Bonnie Hart and Wyona Meyer, as Hecuba. Each actress passes her role off seamlessly to the next without a drop in the tension and command that is required in the part. It can be a draining role for the most seasoned of actresses. Maeve Campman, as Polyxena delivers her monologue with grace and confidence. The Chorus of eight Trojan Women -- Celia Cota, Cassandra Dunn, Emma Ethier, Casey Hagedorn, Lexi Larsen, Annie Takacs, Crystal Walters and Oriah Wind -- support Hecuba with conviction and sympathy.The remaining cast offers a fitting counterpoint to these strong women. (Euripides’ plays feature many strong women.) If there was any issue I could comment on it is that many performers had some difficulty in projecting. But some of this could be due as much to the level that Todd Roach’s recorded score was being played. From what I have learned that is being remedied in subsequent performances. Rick Barron’s set is a model of functional simplicity and the lighting design created by a team of seven led by Jerry Stockman is exceptional in its ability to focus on each dramatic moment.Once again NEYT proves that is it a gem in our community and a model for other youth theaters.
You have four more opportunities to see this excellent production -- Friday at 7 p.m., Saturday at 2 and 7 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m. For tickets and information, contact NEYT at www.NEYT.org or 802-246-6368.William Menezes writes about theater and dance for Ovation.
Editor of the Reformer:
Last Friday, at the New England Youth Theatre, I saw a Euripides’ play, "Hecuba," which is more than 2,000 years old. I had read the play a long time ago and during the play I realized that "Hecuba" on stage is more satisfying than Euripides’ text.
As soon as the lights went down and the actors came on stage I was captivated by the presentation of this ancient play, which confronts us with the startling realization that we have made little progress toward justice, nonviolence and freedom.
The actors -- our young neighbors, our friends, our relatives -- are a source of surprise and pleasure. As young as they are all of them are impressive, sharp and consistently connecting emotionally with the audience.
Eric Bass’ direction is impressive. The cast is disciplined and all the actors clearly understand the meanings of their roles, of the play’s messages and of the emotional climax.
You have to love them while you watch them. They are our next generation and they are on the right path. Go see the play.
Putney, March 7