Shakespeare’s Modern Twist on “The Iliad”

Troilus and Cressida is a savage and bitterly funny condemnation of war told through the eyes of two passionate lovers.

Classic characters from Homer’s The Iliad – Hector, Ulysses, Achilles, Ajax, Helen – leap to life with the help of Shakespeare’s imagination to reveal the follies of war in Troilus and Cressida at Seattle Shakespeare Company. David Quicksall directs the production which runs March 17through April 12 in the Center Theatre .

The source material for Troilus and Cressida draws upon some of the oldest stories ever told and is the oldest subject matter that Shakespeare treats in the canon. “Because of it’s infrequent stage presence, many people aren’t familiar with this play,” said Artistic Director George Mount at the first rehearsal for Troilus and Cressida. “And that’s exciting to be able to tell the tale fresh and new. We love reinventing the classics for Shakespeare enthusiasts and artistic nerds like ourselves. It’s almost like presenting a new play.”

“I’m a huge fan of The Iliad and I love the Trojan War stuff, all of the Greek mythology and all those wonderful old stories,” said director David Quicksall to the artists and guests at the start of rehearsals for Troilus and Cressida. “The two main sources that the story is drawn from are Troilus and Cressida by Chaucer, and then The Iliad by Homer. But this play is not The Iliad and this play is not Chaucer’s Troilus and Cressida. It is Shakespeare’s wonderfully crazy reinvention that breaks these tales apart and transforms them into something else.”

In Troilus and Cressida, all began when Helen of Troy was fiercely abducted, and now for seven long years the Greeks and Trojans have been at war. Warriors cynically debate over the fate of their nations with little resolution. Ensnared in the madness are the young Trojan prince, Troilus, and a traitor’s daughter, Cressida. Their love is tested and exposed to the savage and corrupting influence of wartime politics played out by the heroic characters from The Iliad who are acting in ways that aren’t all that heroic.

Playing the title roles in Troilus and Cressida are Andy Walker (who appeared this past summer in Seattle Shakespeare Company’s Wooden O production of Twelfth Night) and Angélica Duncan-Basile (last on the Seattle Shakespeare Company stage as Lavinia in Titus Andronicus). A cast of 16 additional artists joins them including Aaron Blakely as Achilles, Joe Guzmán as Agamemnon, and Sean Lally as Ulysses who make their Seattle Shakespeare Company debut.

Set design for the production is by Christopher Mumaw, costume design by Jocelyne Fowler, lighting design by Craig B. Wollam, and sound design by Nathan Wade. Fight choreography is by Geoffery Alm and Ian Bond is the Intimacy Director.