Review: ‘Troilus and Cressida’

Jul. 23, 2013 | 0 Comments

REVIEW BY JOHN BERGER / jberger@staradvertiser.com

There’s a mainstream saying of relatively recent vintage to “bring your A game.” Though it might be cliche, the concept applies to the Hawaii Shakespeare Festival’s season-opening production of “Troilus and Cressida.” 

With a core cast made up of some of Hawaii’s most accomplished stage actors and HSF co-founder R. Kevin Garcia Doyle directing, the show is indeed “A game” theater.

0723 troilus

‘Troilus and Cressida’

Presented by the Hawaii Shakespeare Festival

» Where: The ARTS at Marks Garage
» When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday and 3:30 p.m. Sunday
» Cost: $15 ($10 advance sale) Wednesday; $25 ($20 advance) all other shows. Only cash and checks are accepted at the door.
» Info: (800) 838-3006 or www.hawaiishakes.org

Alvin Chan, an asset to HSF ever since he starred in “Macbeth” 10 years ago, nails a full spectrum of emotions in the title role of Troilus. In one scene Troilus is possessed by such rage that another warrior can barely keep him committing double murder; in another he’s so bashful he struggles to speak a word to the girl of his dreams. Chan hits those extremes and everything between them.

Arrayed around him is a brilliant constellation of talent: Troy M. Apostol doesn’t miss a beat playing Agamemnon as a cool and calculating leader. The actor known in Hawaii as Q is a strong and clever Ulysses, honorable but with an agenda in play.

Moses Goods oozes malevolence as the haughty and ruthless Achilles. Albert Ueligitone owns one of the major comic roles as powerful but blockheaded Ajax; you can almost see a cartoon light bulb flickering — very very dimly — above Ajax’s head. Jonathan Clarke Sypert personifies all things chivalrous and noble with his animated portrayal of Hector, the greatest warrior of Troy.

Lacey Perrine Chu (Cressida) gives her best performance to date as Chan’s leading lady. Sharon R. Garcia Doyle (Pandara), wife of the director, earns her spot in the line-up with her adept work in the major female comic role.

(Purists will note that Shakespeare wrote the character as Pandarus, not Pandara — in other words, as Cressida’s uncle, not her aunt. Tampering with the gender of Shakespeare’s characters is always problematic, but whatever director Garcia Doyle’s reasons were for changing Pandarus to Pandara and then casting his wife in the role, the comic aspects work well enough.)

The story takes place during the Trojan War. Troilus and Cressida have noticed each other from afar but neither has made a move until Pandora finally brings them together. Unfortunately for them, Cressida’s father has defected to the Greeks; as payment he asks them to trade a high-ranking Trojan prisoner for his daughter. The Trojans want their man back and agree to the swap.

What are the lovers to do?

Shakespeare or not, Chan and Chu are beautifully true to life playing the lovers — shy, hesitant, skittish — in their first meeting, and then passionate thereafter.

Other actors also give performances well worth watching. Richard Valasek (Nestor), almost unrecognizable beneath a long white beard, effectively voices the wisdom of age and the vulnerabilities that come with aging in his portrayal of the centenarian king of Pylos and Chloris. Shawn Forsythe (Thersites) delivers the requisite dose of rowdy low-brow Shakespearean comedy with his convincingly executed physical performance and his command of the “fool’s” provocative dialogue.

The fight scenes, choreographed by Nicolas Logue, are convincing and played full-force. There is nothing tentative about the battles between the heros of Greece and Troy at HSF.

Given director Doyle’s background in comedy and improv, it isn’t surprising that he makes effective use of visual embellishments to accent the Shakespearean dialogue. In particular, various characters’ comic gestures — many of them gestures of rude defiance — accent the action appropriately and are not distractions.

Doyle also makes a statement about the war itself with his take on Helen, the woman who caused the war by leaving her husband, and Paris, the Trojan prince she left him for. Linda Molina (Helen) and Michal Nowicki (Paris) portray the pair as vacuous airheads — certainly not a couple with a love that other Greeks and Trojans should die for.
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John Berger has been a mainstay in the local entertainment scene for more than 40 years. Contact him via email at jberger@staradvertiser.com.

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