Hell in a Thong

"War is hell." Check.

"War is especially hell on the survivors." Got it.

"War is particularly hellacious on the female survivors because they would have had the smarts not to get involved in such a harebrained endeavor in the first place." Right.

Get the point yet? Unquestionably, Euripides was an insightful fellow (and a prolific one; the man had 92 plays attributed to him, of which 19 survive), and since he was writing around 400 B.C., he can claim a certain originality in messages that nowadays aren't exactly earthshaking.

But with a little help from a director like Seret Scott, his Trojan Women is still prescient. Somewhat.

At the Old Globe, director Scott and adapter Marianne McDonald have placed a fairly explicit contemporary spin on the play (rifle-toting Greeks in desert battle fatigues and Trojans wearing period garb). Scott spices up matters by having Helen of Troy (a thong-wearing Celeste Ciulla) vamp it up for jilted Menelaus (John Campion) as the Chorus chants, "Bomb the bitch! Burn the whore!"

A realist like Helen ensures herself a comfortable bed during difficult times through feminine wiles. The vamp avenue, alas, isn't available to Queen Hecuba (Randy Danson). As the god Poseidon tells us in a lip-synched prologue, Hecuba has lost half her family. Worse, she has lost hope. So for the next 90 minutes, hope is raised and dashed as Hecuba and the optimistic chorus watch Andromache, mad Cassandra and slinky Helen each get something other than just deserts. A sympathetic soldier (Michael James Reed) drills the "I hate war" message from the male POV. All powerful and well-acted enough, but the production is still one . . . long . . . dirge. And a familiar-sounding one at that.

TROJAN WOMEN at Old Globe Theatre, Balboa Park, San Diego, (619) 239-2255. Tues.-Sun., 8 p.m. Through Oct. 14. $23-$42.


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