The Oregon Shakespeare Festival will open Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida, directed by Rob Melrose, at 8 pm. Saturday, March 31 in the New Theatre. The play will run through November 4. Troilus and Cressida joins Chekhov's Seagull, adapted and directed by Libby Appel, also playing in the New Theatre, and Romeo and Juliet, Animal Crackers and The White Snake, which run in the Angus Bowmer Theatre.

Shakespeare's source material for Troilus and Cressida was Homer's The Iliad, which recounts the Trojan War, society's first major conflict. As the legend goes, the beautiful Helen, a Greek, fell in love with Paris, a visiting Trojan warrior. They eloped and her husband, Menelaus, and the Greek Army go to war against the Trojans.

Shakespeare mixed Homer's tale with Chaucer's poem, Troilus and Criseyde, ending up with a story of two lovers who are trying to be together amid an endless war that is robbing all involved of their humanity. His play starts seven years into the 10-year conflict, when many of the soldiers are sick of it all.

Director Rob Melrose, artistic director of San Francisco's Cuttingball Theatre, has set his production in the midst of the US conflict in Iraq, right after the 2003 invasion of Baghdad. He sees striking parallels between the play and the setting.

"In Troilus and Cressida," says Melrose, "both sides of the war (Trojan and Greek) are seriously questioning whether or not the war is worth fighting. It is one of the reasons I love this play. We get to listen in on the entire army-from the ground troops to the commanders-and hear them ask, "Now why are we fighting this war again? Is this really worth so many people dying? The overwhelming feeling from Troilus and Cressida is 'war is hell' or even 'the absurdity of war,' much like Apocalypse Now or Catch 22."

The whole play, he says, "Is really about love and war and the corrupting influence of war on both."

Despite that, he says, Hector is "probably the best representative of an honorable soldier in all of Shakespeare. He is the best fighter on the Trojans' side … and everything he does can be traced back to his sense of honor."

And, he adds, one of the reasons he's been drawn to the play for the past 20 years is its wicked sense of humor.

The cast for Troilus and Cressida includes Troilus (Raffi Barsoumian), Cressida (Tala Ashe), Priam (Tony DeBruno), Ajax (Elijah Alexander), Thersites (Michael Elich), Agamemnon (Jeffrey King), Ulysses (Mark Murphey), Achilles (Peter Macon), Diomedes (Kevin Kenerly), Pandarus (Barzin Akhavan), Hector (Bernard White), Paris (Ramiz Monsef), Helen (Brooke Parks) and Aeneas (Fajer Al-Kaisi).

The design team includes scenic designer Michael Locher, costume designer Christal Weatherly, lighting designer Jiyoun Chang and music and sound designer Cliff Caruthers. Lue Morgan Douthit is dramaturg on the project, and Rebecca Clark Carey is voice and text director, and Christopher Duval is fight director.

Tickets remain available for preview and opening performances. Previews: Wednesday, March 28 at 8:00 pm and Friday, March 30 at 1:30 pm; opening: Friday, March 31 at 8:00 pm. Call the Box Office at 541-482-4331 or visit to order online.

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