Very cool images. But Arabian apparently spent so much time thinking them up that he failed to pay attention to such minor elements as, say, acting.
With one exception his leads were all floundering opening night. There are widly different styles of acting, none connecting with the others in any meaningful way.
Only vet actress Angela Paton, as an angry and recognizably regal Hecuba, brings any emotional reality to her performance. The other performances consist mainly of posturing — or, in the case of James Harper’s Menelaus, playing for innapropriate laughs.
One can only guess what Mariette Hartley is going after, with her jerky, animatronic-style movements as Andromache. Whatever it is, it doesn’t work. Like most of her colleagues, she seems to be striving for effect, not living the role.
The chorus of Trojan women sing most of their lines. This approach can be highly effective, as those who saw American Conservatory Theatre’s recent production of “Hecuba” in San Francisco with Olympia Dukakis can attest.
Unfortunately, Mimi Seton’s prosaic lyrics and banal pop/folk/gospel melodies seem sadly out of place, and kill whatever dramatic momentum the production builds.
A subtle lighting design was probably impossible, given the circumstances; in any event, J. Kent Inasy does not provide one. Betty Berberian’s costumes are appropriately subdued, with black and burgundy the primary colors. Airplanes and helicopters fly overhead periodically, drowning out the actors. This isn’t as annoying as expected, since one can imagine they are military aircraft, and therefore a part of the show. For unexplained reasons, Arabian has placed the prologue at the end of the play. This is an unwitting symbol of the backwards nature of his production, in which the play gets lost and the site is the star.