“A Trojan Woman” looks at the personal result of warfare

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A woman in a dirty white dress is kneeling on the ground and is holding a light
A Trojan Woman (Photo by Stephanie Gamba)
A woman in a dirty white dress is holding a metal trash can lid.
A Trojan Woman (Photo by Stephanie Gamba)

West Orange’s innovative Luna Stage gifts its audiences with A Trojan Woman, adapted  by Sara Farrington from Euripides’ classic tragedy The Trojan Women. It is a play that in its simplicity and imagination brings home hard truths that, sadly, have been repeated from conflict to conflict for over two millennia.

We are introduced to Irina, a woman in a war-torn land (take your pick: Ukraine; Afghanistan; Vietnam; Poland; Hiroshima; Israel; Palestine; or any of too many others). She is taking her young son to a place of relative safety, using as a mantra the phrase “They don’t harm civilians.” In a flash, Irina loses her son to the war. 

In her mind, Irina becomes the characters – bereft of family, of home, of a place to belong – in Euripides’ play. She is Hecuba the queen, now just another old woman to be bound in slavery, her husband dead, all her children killed save one. She is that one surviving child – Cassandra, the prophetess who can reveal the future but is doomed by the gods never to be believed. She is Andromache, widow of the Trojan hero Hector, also taken into slavery with the knowledge that her only son is to be put to death by the fearful Greek leaders. And she is Helen, the cause of the Trojan War, now facing a death sentence, and also Helen’s husband Menelaus, warned not to look into his wife’s eyes lest he fall for her self-serving words.

Irina becomes two members of the play’s chorus, taking up the refrain of survivors trapped in a nightmare: “If only we had done this, if only we had not done that, things would have been different.” She is Poseidon, god of the sea and patron of Troy, who is blamed for inaction in not saving his city; she is Athena, goddess of crafts, patron of the Greeks, seeking to punish one of their generals for defiling her temple in Troy. Finally, she is Talthybius, herald of the Greeks, whose every appearance brings bad news to the women of Troy, trying to hide behind the excuse of only doing what he is ordered to do.

All of these characters are brought to life by the amazing Drita Kabashi, directed by Meghan Finn, using everyday items – a garbage can, a stroller, a bicycle helmet, umbrellas, a laundry basket, chains – to represent different characters. Kabashi harnesses all the power that theatre can bring to bear on the message of A Trojan Woman, and she delivers a performance that is the essence of a tour-de-force.

Words on paper cannot begin to describe the effect this play will have on those who see it. Its message may be as old as time but it is one that repeats down through the ages. I cannot urge you more strongly to see A Trojan Woman before its all-too-brief run ends at West Orange’s Luna Stage.

A Trojan Woman is presented by Luna Stage in West Orange through March 31st, 2024. For information or to purchase tickets, go to lunastage.org or call 973-395-5551.

Allen Neuner
Allen Neuner is the theater reviewer at Out in Jersey magazine. Jersey born and raised, Allen went to his first Broadway play in 1957 and has been deliriously in love with live theater ever since. Allen has been accepted into the American Theatre Critics Association, a professional organization of theatre journalists. He has been partnered to music reviewer Bill Realman Stella, with whom he is also deliriously in love, for over 20 years. They live in an over-cluttered house in Somerville.