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  •  REVIEW: MOURN THE LIVING HECTOR

    Mourn the Living Hector

    Troy harder

    "Mourn the Living Hector" mixes disconnected scenes from the fall of Troy with others of a disturbed Marine in the present, never thickening into the powerful story it could have been.

    By JOSHUA TANZER
    Offoffoff.com

    We all bring our own background with us into the theater. Seldom has this been true in a more literal sense than at "Mourn the Living Hector," in which we have been provided a synopsis of "The Iliad" tucked helpfully into the program, in case we need to refresh our memory.

      
    MOURN THE LIVING HECTOR
    Company: Performance Lab 115.
    Written by: Paul Cohen.
    Directed by: Shira Milikowsky, Julie Rossman.
    Cast: Jeff Clarke, Liz Eckert, Birgit Huppuch, Rachel Jablin, Rebecca Lingafelter, David Skeist.
    Sound design by: Mark Valadez.
    Set design by: Chisato Uno.
    Costumes by: Sarah Cubbage.
    Lighting design by: Dans Maree Sheehan.
    Production stage manager: Christina Morales.

    Related links: Official site
     SCHEDULE
    Flamboyan Theater (at CSV)
    107 Suffolk Street (at Delancey)
    Fringe Festival 2008, Aug. 8-24, 2008

     RELATED ARTICLES
    Fringe Festival 2008
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  • Reviews:
  • Anaïs Nin Goes To Hell
  • beast: a parable
  • Blanche Survives Katrina in a FEMA Trailer Named Desire
  • China: The Whole Enchilada
  • The Corn Maiden
  • Extraordinary Rendition
  • Hidden Fees*
  • The Longest Running Joke of the Twentieth Century
  • Lucasville: The Untold Story of a Prison Uprising
  • Mourn the Living Hector
  • A Nasty Story
  • the october crisis (to laura)
  • Other Bodies
  • Prayer
  • Psalms of a Questionable Nature
  • Raised by Lesbians
  • Reasonable Doubt
  • The Third from the Left
  • Zombie
  • I brought some of my own background to this parallel story of the Trojan warrior Hector and a modern-day Marine named Mike, who is home from the war himself. The subject reminded me of an outstanding book called "Achilles in Vietnam," that uses "The Iliad" as a springboard for understanding the trauma that soldiers often bring home from combat. Just as in legend, unfortunately, "Achilles" the book gets the better of "Hector" the play.

    The play has two notable strengths. First, nobody ever tells the story of Hector. Homer doesn't focus on him. Brad Pitt doesn't play him. He's the most brilliant fighter on the battlefield, but we don't see inside his soul the way we do with Achilles. So showing Hector — and, particularly, showing the Trojan War from inside Troy — is interesting.

    Second, some images — either physically onstage or through words — appear and reappear, hinting at a hidden language of war that crosses time and borders and the line between killing and daily life. There's an easy one: a soldier wakes with a start when the ceiling fan brings back the sound of chopper blades. There are more subtle ones: A duffel bag becomes a laundry bag and a laundry bag becomes a body bag. And the images that really stick are those of war victims who have lost eyes and arms.


      
    A closing dialogue between Hector and his wife, Andromache, as he faces his death at the hands of Achilles and she plans for her children's slaughter and her own enslavement, is a heartbreaker.  

      
    In Troy, Hector and Polydamas talk emotionlessly about a comrade who fell in battle, how his body was pierced and carved, like he was no more human than one of those laundry bags. In the current day, Mike has a guiltily funny conversation with a woman who works in the prosthetic-limb business. She likes it because it helps people, like children in Angola.

    "It's gratifying. You can really make a difference," she says. "You try to be positive. You let them know things that armless kids are really good at."

    "What are the armless kids really good at?" Mike asks.

    "I don't know," she admits. "Climbing into tunnels?"

    What is going through Mike's head? We're meant to understand he is suffering from some degree of combat trauma himself — something to do with people killed, eyes ripped out and arms shorn off — but little is explained. From splintered conversations we are supposed to glean more than we do. Never does Mike get a chance to explain what happened to him in the war, except apparently he killed a man. Call me a slave to conventional storytelling, but couldn't the plot have developed more, forcing him deeper into whatever he experienced over there?

    The Trojan half of the play is also obtuse, but it has a point. It also doesn't delve deeply enough into the character of its hero, Hector, but it does offer scattered scenes of a people under siege, facing their own extinction. A closing dialogue between Hector and his wife, Andromache, as he faces his death at the hands of Achilles and she plans for her children's slaughter and her own enslavement, is a heartbreaker. It is clear and human.

    This half, if it were more of a story and less a bundle of scenes, could have been a strong play on its own. It didn't need to be tethered to the "living Hector" half of the story for its modern relevance to have been understood — and its relevance, in fact, was never to PTSD, as the Mike story suggests, but to human destruction in war. Creativity, unfortunately, intervened. As it stands, "Mourn the Living Hector" gives only a glimpse of the stunning story that the Iliad would have been if told from the losers' side.

    AUGUST 19, 2008
    OFFOFFOFF.COM • THE GUIDE TO ALTERNATIVE NEW YORK



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