Projectile blood is just one spectacle in Shakespeare's problem play, Troilus and Cressida, as staged at Central Park's Delacorte Theater, a fine Public Theater production directed by Daniel Sullivan. Written around the same time the bard penned his most famous tragedy Hamlet in 1602, T&C features warriors waging battle in the Trojan War, and as in Hamlet, the play asks the question, what makes a man? In Hamlet, after the hero's death, Fortinbras, loosely translated as a French "strong in arms," takes over. Might makes right, right? The more obscure T&C's message is more muddled: Strong arms do not necessarily make for good men. The high body count is not worth the loss. And love, as in the kind young Troilus has for Cressida, does not elevate. In modern dress, and performed by an exceptional cast, including John Glover, Corey Stoll, John Douglas Thompson, Max Casella for his comic relief, and with a hunky Bill Heck as Hector and Andrew Burnap as his younger brother Troilus, this male ensemble shows men doing what men do.
Consider Homer's Iliad a point of reference for a war fought over Helen, the woman that famously launched a thousand ships. The star of that epic was Achilles, reticent to fight until his buddy Patroclus is killed by Hector. The play's women are important, allowing for male acts of callow impropriety, as well as revealing softer sides of men's character. The most significant scene between our lovers takes place just after intermission, and because of an exceptionally long line to the women's room, a bunch of us did not make it back to our seats in time to witness it. As in this play, penalizing women for poor management are just the spoils of war. Late seating is not a good option.
A version of this post also appears on Gossip Central.