Sunday, April 7, 2024

Hecuba by Pangea World Theater

Pangea World Theater has opened their new production of Hecuba at the Southern Theater, playing April 5-21, and it is a beautiful, heart-rending play. 

Based on a play written by Euripides c. 424 BCE, the story starts just after the fall of the city of Troy to Greece following a years-long siege and the fateful arrival of the famed Trojan Horse. But you don't have to study Greek tragedy to understand this play.

Irish playwright Marina Carr uses the ancient tale to create a universal story of the horrors of war. Carr starts the play in the immediate aftermath of Troy's fall, following Hecuba, Queen of Troy, as she loses everything to the conquering King Agamemnon. The characters narrate their own story describing their surroundings and sometimes voicing other characters lines, which gives a glimpse into how the words are heard as well as spoken. Hecuba, surrounded by the bodies of her fallen sons, is brought even lower when she and her daughters are taken prisoner by Agamemnon, Odysseus, and their soldiers. 

As this ancient tale unfolds, the performers are seated to the sides of the stage, bearing witness to the events and contributing sound and movement when they are not part of the main action. The script's descriptions allow director Dipankar Mukherjee to stage the violence, killing, and sexual content of the story in a specifically unrealistic way. The words alone carry the weight of the violence. 

Hecuba (Suzanne Victoria Cross) with her daughters Polyxena
(Anne Guadagnino) and Cassandra (Ankita Ashrit).
All the performances were excellent, with Suzanne Victoria Cross showing us Hecuba's pride even as she and her women are held captive, starved, and worse. Matthew Saxe as Agamemnon is a ruthless antagonist who also sometimes questions the "rules of war" that he upholds. 

Hecuba's two daughters depicted in the play have very different relationships with their mother. Polyxena is young, but not as innocent as her mother believes. Anne Guadagnino plays the duality very well. Ankita Ashrit's Cassandra has a much more combative relationship with Hecuba. As told in mythology, Cassandra was gifted with the power of prophecy, but also a curse that no one would believe her. Even when she sees what will happen to them, Hecuba argues with her and disowns her, which allows us to see Cassandra's struggle. 

The action is underscored, and even introduced and capped off by the original music composed and played onstage by Bethany Lacktorin. The sounds, sometimes assisted by the cast, help to set the scenes and the conflicts played out on stage.

Although these characters' lives are influenced by the gods, they are not too different from those influenced by ideology in today's world. The horrors of their wars are not so different from our own. And in a way, Hecuba is any mother, watching helplessly as her children are taken from her. Carr's play brings the horrors of war from the ancient world into our own and is sadly relevant to our own time. 

Learn more about the play in Pangea's Performance Guide

For more insight into Pangea's work, check out the Twin Cities Theater Chat podcast we recorded with Production Manager (and Hecuba) Suzanne Victoria Cross and General Manager Adlyn Carreras.