My big fat Greek tragedy

The Frank Theatre reinterprets classical Greek tales

If the prologue from “The Iliad” were combined with two tragedies by Euripides and set to original music, the result could be “Desperate Housewives” in a fifth century B.C. prisoner-of-war camp.

“The Women of Troy,” a new production of the Frank Theatre, combines these elements with poise and vigor.

Wendy Knox, the theater’s creative director said, “It’s as if we read, twisted and adapted the plays, put them in the blender and pressed ‘liquefy.’ The result is an original piece.”

The result is also a timely commentary on the cruelty of war, supplemented with a tale of female strength, solidarity and vengeance. The amalgamation of “The Iliad,” “Hecuba” and “The Trojan Women” follows the story of the royal women of Troy after their city is ransacked by the Greeks.

Most of the Trojan men are dead, and the women are held hostage, awaiting their fate as slaves, servants or the forced brides of Greek war heroes. The women collectively blame the beautiful and adulterous Helen for starting the war.

The widowed Queen Hecuba, her daughter Cassandra, Hector’s widow Andromache and the other women suffer assorted tragic consequences. In the second act, however, Hecuba empowers the women to avenge the death of her son by putting out his killer’s eyes and murdering his children in his presence.

Taking on this much drama, with the added complication of a musical component, is a challenge the Frank Theatre meets boldly.

One notable success is the arrangement of the script itself. The result, Knox said, is a balance between “The Trojan Women,” covered mostly in the first act, and “Hecuba,” condensed into the second. This composition keeps the pace constant and allows the audience to watch the women’s transformation.

The format of musical drama was new to some of the cast members, they said.

“In selecting the cast, we wanted a group comprised of both actors who can sing and singers who can act,” Knox said.

Ultimately, the show’s great strengths are its score and the cast’s singing ability.

The score adds tremendous energy and emotion, sometimes even comic relief, to a fairly gloomy plot. The songs convey the fury and desperation in a way spoken words cannot.

Composer Marya Hart, who wrote all the original songs for the show, drew inspiration from a variety of styles, including the black tradition, opera and rock’n’roll.

The show reminds audiences the tragedies of antiquity bear an eerie resemblance to modern-day issues. It is a fact Knox said she knows all too well, as she intended the work to be an anti-war piece.

“(The Women of Troy) is a way to look at what’s going on in the world, to make connections between theater and current events,” Knox said. “It’s a goal we have in producing all of our shows.”