Photos By Jack Dietz
Sometimes you just need to see theater in a church basement on a rainy Friday night in order to really put things in perspective. Good theater doesn’t need the grand stage and the sold-out box office to be important and striking; the teary eyes at Theatre@First’s production of “Trojan Women” reminds us of that.
A Somerville-based project, the company provides affordable and varied shows to the Davis Square community. Every aspect of “Trojan Women” is made possible by a supportive community effort, from the printing of the programs to the sewing machines for the costumes. The result is a warm, enjoyable experience that shines with the energy of everyone who contributed to it, and a sense of unity between those on both sides of the curtain that might not be felt in a much larger theatrical setting.
“Trojan Women” takes place in the aftermath of the destruction of Troy by the Greek army after the latter sneak past the city’s impassable walls in that infamous wooden horse. The themes of loss, displacement, and anti-war sentiment are just as relevant today as they were when the play was first debuted in 415 B.C. Elizabeth Hunter is arresting in her role as Hecuba, the matriarch and former queen of Troy, her anguish at the loss of her daughters and her city palpable in every scene. The play’s young actors were also a welcome sight, with Chris Mason as the duty-driven Talthybius and Hannah Sharafian as Cassandra, the cursed prophetess.
Emotion takes center stage at a play as rife with drama and tragedy as “Trojan Women.” With its bare set, budget-friendly costuming, and tiny venue, the performance depended on its actor’s chops to carry itself through the heavy subject material and to hold onto the attention of its audience — many of whom were families and children. Serious props to the community actors for managing to keep a 12-year-old in the first row from checking her smartphone over the entire 90-minute performance — that’s no easy feat in 2014. The tears and sobs bursting forth from these women were completely real. They were able to bare their souls in that room; putting forth their all, even to an audience of less than 40 people. That kind of visceral power is what real theater is all about.