NEW YORK – Euripides’ Andromache has had numerous critics through the centuries. From July 28-August 2 the New York Euripides Summer Festival 2014 of the American Thymele Theatre (ATT) performed an excellent service by letting theater devotees judge for themselves.
The stage was dark except for a shrine at far left. The mood was set through original compositions evocative of ancient Greek music which later on accompany the poignant movements of the chorus, both of which are ATT trademarks. Sarah Hysjulien was the choreographer and Stephen Diacrussi the Producing Artistic and Stage director.
The veiled woman sitting in the shrine was Thetis, the divine mother of Achilles, and Andromache enters ironically seeking her help. Her son killed Andromache’s husband Hector, causing her to become slave and then concubine to her grandson Neoptolemos, to whom he bore a son.
Life was as good as could be expected until politics compelled Neoptolemos to many Hermione, the child of one of history’s most unfortunate matches: Menelaos, King of Sparta, and Helen of Troy.
Unable to conceive, her husband began to lose interest, generating a murderous rage against Andromache and her son. With Neoptolemos away, Menelaos showed up as his daughter’s enforcer.
But Andromache could count on Achilles’ father Peleus who is elderly but still fiery, and he eventually chased Menelaos away.
Euripides missed no opportunity to poke fun of Sparta in the middle of the Peloponnesian War. When Hermione put down Andromache for sleeping with her husband’s killer, the latter gave both Laconian men and women a vicious tongue lashing.
Hermione freaked out when she learned daddy had gone and she turned on the chorus of Pthian women, who could care less about either princess.
They are plunged into mourning by the death of Neoptolemos, but the tragedy was softened (matters are seldom tragic for everyone) when Thetis came alive and promised Peleus immortality and Andromache a new husband.
Judging from their enthusiastic applause at Barnard College’s Diana Center Building, the audience disagreed with critics who feel it lacked dramatic unity.
The play’s three movements had unifying elements, not least of which was the pain of three royals finding themselves completely alone and at the mercy of the machinations of gods and men.
The music, lighting, and acting by the huge cast left the audience in a properly cathartic state.
ATT was founded in 1993 by Diacrussi to promote and disseminate Hellenic culture in America by producing plays with Greek themes and which are presented free at both indoor and outdoor venues.