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Culture

ATT’s Production of Euripides’ Hecuba Resurrects Ancient Drama in N.Y.

NEW YORK – Known to modern audiences mainly as names heard during classes in literature and history, the characters of the great dramatist Euripides once again came alive and worked their magic on Manhattan audiences this summer thanks to the 7th annual New York Euripides Summer Festival of the American Thymele Theater.
Hecuba, named for the intelligent and stately queen of Troy who finds herself a slave to the Greeks in the aftermath of the Trojan War, is set in the camp of the victorious Agamemnon.
The play is one of a number by Euripides that focus on the character and struggles of women – they often appear stronger and more noble than the men – marking him as one of the first advocates of women’s rights.
Hecuba was presented in traditional form for free with out intermission, outdoors and in daylight as in ancient Athens.
The passionate and well-turned performances of the actors were guided by Jonghee Quispe, the Company Managing Director.
The acting, combined with choreography and original music is designed to evoke the powerful emotions and frame the intellectual themes addressed by the playwright whose work has deeply impacted audiences and later artists a
like for more than two millennia.
Over that length of time, subject matter is bound to reappear in “real life” and indeed Stephen Diacrussi, ATT Founder and Producing and Artistic Director, notes that today, Greece in crisis “can be compared to Hecuba, a former Queen who is now a slave…just as Hellas used to be in our life time…a prosperous and dignified nation,” he said, it is now “at the mercy of foreigners.”
Hecuba’s words speak loudly not only to the weak and recently impoverished, but to the powerful whose greed and indifference shatter lives: “Politicians do not care what harm they cause, providing they can please a crowd,” she declared.
While Euripides’ plays explore themes like self-sacrifice and forgiveness in ways that prepared the Greek mind to receive the messages of the Christian gospels 500 years later, in Hecuba the playwright shows that the cruel blows of fate – most of Hecuba’s loved ones and almost all her children were destroyed by the time the play begins – can sometimes be assuaged by sweet revenge.
Elizabeth Carian as Hecuba is shattered when she learn ed that her son Polydorus – played by Diacrussi, who delighted his fans with his ATT debut – was killed in cold blood by family friend Polymestor, the King of Thrace.
Cooly, she lays a trap for the King, played with oily arrogance by Samuel Muniz. Luring him to her tent by the prospect of gaining more treasure – he killed Polydorus for his gold – he was savagely attacked (hell hath no fury…) by Hecu
ba’s attendants, who blinded the king and killed his own son.
The theme of the conflicts between official duty and the obligations of people to their friends and benefactors is also examined in the scene where Marc Osian, who plays Odysseus, whose life was spared by Hecuba when he was capture
d during a pre-war spying expedition, has come to take away Hecuba’s beautiful and youngest daughter
Polyxena. Odysseus is deaf to the pleas and admonitions of his victim’s mother and his own savior.
Polyxena, to be sacrificed to the gods and played with grace and quiet fire by Yaprak Unver, brings honor to the defeated Trojan royal family – and shames the Greeks – by willingly accepting her death and displaying great courage.
Diacrussi would love to perform more, but due to the multifaceted responsibilities he undertakes for each production, and because “it is not easy to both appear onstage and coordinate things offstage,” he has not been able to do so until now. “Seven years after the festival began is was a pleasure to be among the actors and feeling like an actor myself,” he told TNH.

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