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Review Roundup: The Public Theater's TROILUS and CRESSIDA

Directed by Daniel Sullivan, Troilus and Cressida had its official opening on August 9, 2016. This is the second of three productions in the 2016 Shakespeare in the Park season, which is produced by The Public Theater.

The complete cast of Troilus and Cressida features Zach Appelman (Diomedes); Tala Ashe (Helen, Andromache); Alex Breaux (Ajax); Andrew Burnap (Troilus); Louis Cancelmi (Achilles); Max Casella (Thersites); Sanjit De Silva (Aeneas); John Glover(Pandarus); Bill Heck (Hector); Edward James Hyland (Nestor); Maurice Jones (Paris); Ismenia Mendes (Cressida); Nneka Okafor (Cassandra); Tom Pecinka (Patroclus); Miguel Perez (Priam, Calchas); Corey Stoll (Ulysses); John Douglas Thompson (Agamemnon); The non-equity ensemble includes Connor Bond, Andrew Chaffee, Michael Bradley Cohen, Paul Deo Jr., KeiLyn Durrel Jones,Jin Ha, Hunter Hoffman, Nicholas Hoge, Forrest Malloy, Kario Pereira-Bailey, and Grace Rao.

Tony-winning director Daniel Sullivan (Proof, Cymbeline) returns to Shakespeare in the Park with one of the Bard's most rarely produced plays, Troilus and Cressida. Both warriors and lovers play hard to get in this surprisingly modern epic about the hot blood, hot thoughts and hot deeds of the ancient Greeks. In the 7th year of the Trojan War, Troilus, a young prince, pines for the affections of Cressida, a bright young woman who knows how to play it cool. Meanwhile, the heroes of the Iliad - Hector, Paris and the kings they serve - debate whether to return the dangerously beautiful captive Helen or continue to fight without end. Nations and lovers alike do battle in this funny, piercing drama about romance and revenge in a world at war.

Let's see what the critics had to say...

Elizabeth Vincentelli, New York Times: The new Public Theater production of this relatively obscure Shakespeare play gets many things right, but its biggest triumph is to make us reconsider the reputation of a work derided for haphazard jumps from romantic declarations to military strategizing, from bawdy banter to moral questioning. There is all that at the Delacorte Theater, but also a rare cogency - plus incredibly loud gunfire.

Michael Dale, Broadwayworld: Helen of Troy had a face that launched a thousand ships and at least as many mediocre dramas, but while Shakespeare's seldom-performed Troilus and Cressidacan be a bit of a muddy slog on paper, director Daniel Sullivan and an ace ensemble of actors make what works about the play really crackle. While the story can get a little heavy-handed, the evening boasts a fun assortment of performances as it barrels toward a horrific finish.

Adam Feldman, Time Out New York: Drenched in irony and whipping in tone from bawdy comedy to near-nihilistic tragedy-the play defies attempts at taxonomy-Troilus and Cressida offers little by way of plot or sympathetic characters. Small wonder, perhaps, that it is more popular with scholars than audiences. But its language is richly rewarding, and its understanding of military and sexual politics, elucidated in Sullivan's staging, feels trenchantly modern. The production concludes with a long combat scene that is thrilling and disgusting at once. It's an appropriate end for this slippery play, a portrait of war etched in mud.

Emma Brockes, The Guardian: As it turns out, Daniel Sullivan's production is so ferociously good, so unexpectedly funny and searingly modern that it achieves that thing all productions of Shakespeare are at some level striving for: overcoming the language barriers to present a story you can lose yourself in as easily - or almost as easily - as a play in modern English.

Marilyn Stasio, Variety: Did Shakespeare really write "Troilus and Cressida"? That's fair to ask of a play with unlovely lovers, listless poetry, and a fractured plot that staggers from romantic comedy into cynical tragedy. In the new production at The Public Theater's Free Shakespeare in the Park, director Daniel Sullivan prudently races through the boring stuff to get to the second act, in which he sends two armies of handsome, able-bodied actors into homoerotic battle to fight the suddenly sexy Trojan War.

Frank Scheck, The Hollywood Reporter: Sullivan, abetted by an excellent ensemble, does about as well as one can with this difficult play. He stages the complicated action with fast-paced vigor and clarity, and imbues the violent battle scenes with visceral intensity. This is also a particularly sexy rendition. It puts plenty of skimpily dressed, hard-bodied men on display, and makes torrid work of the romantic relationship between the titular characters (Andrew Burnap and Ismenia Mendes). The overall atmosphere is so steamy that it's easy to see why the beautiful queen being held captive by the Trojans, Helen (Tala Ashe), is constantly swilling red wine.

Robert Kahn, NBC New York: "Troilus and Cressida" may not have made your college syllabus, and the director makes a key move that resolves any potential difficulties with familiarity: "Troilus" has been naturalized into 2016 idiom, making it delightfully easy to follow, if you don't mind all the mugging that comes along with it.

Steve Parks, Newsday: The war raging around young lovers Troilus and Cressida is pointless. But that's precisely the point of Shakespeare's tragedy with a wickedly comic undertow now playing - for just five more performances - in Central Park. If the Grecian-Trojan war that pervades "Troilus and Cressida" brings to mind current conflicts, that's no accident. Director Daniel Sullivan brings Shakespeare's seldom-produced anti-war, anti-hero, anti-romance farce into sharp 21st century focus, complete with selfies, social media and assault rifles - all framed by David Zinn's industrial set accessorized with his modern-dress costumes.

Photo Credit: Joan Marcus

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