TROY WOMEN, Trap Door Theatre. Anyone adapting Euripides’ The Trojan Women faces two challenges. First, it’s structurally one of the weakest classical Greek dramas (translator Gilbert Murray called it “scarcely even a good play…with little plot, little construction, little or no relief or variety”). Second, Sartre wrote a brilliant adaptation 30 years ago, unlocking the ancient text’s proto-existentialism.

All in all, you’d better have a darn good reason to bypass the geniuses of Euripides and Sartre.

Yale graduate student Karen Hartman has such a reason, namely to explore the play’s proto-feminism (not a novel idea, but worthwhile nonetheless). By costuming the besieged women of Troy in smart business suits–making them “honorary men,” in essence–she slyly insists that war’s decimation of women’s culture, traditionally undervalued, should be held equivalent to the destruction of the “male” world of politics and commerce. But trying to flesh out her ideas dramatically she jumps clumsily from lyrical poetry to vulgar colloquialism to academic jargon, struggling to find a unifying philosophy or style. Director Michael S. Pieper tends to plow headlong through the script’s intellectual labyrinth, too often reducing Hartman’s stylized ceremony to overwrought displays of ersatz misery. He needs to find presentational conventions to convey the story’s mythic power; as Sartre pointed out, Greek drama must be as artificial as it is rigorous.

–Justin Hayford