The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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October 31, 2013

Gustavus' 'Trojan Barbies' explores horrors of war through eyes of women

Gustavus' 'Trojan Barbies' explores horrors of war through eyes of women

Carrianne Brobst came to her own moment of understanding about "Trojan Barbie" early in rehearsals.

The moment occurred during a scene where Brobst's character, the endearing but hopelessly naive Lotte, is kidnapped with a gag in her mouth and a hood over her head. The text calls for Lotte to scream as the scene closes.

"The first time they put that hood on," Brobst said, "I had a moment of panic. My scream just turned to sobs."

Such is the power of Christine Evans' award-winning war drama that opens today at Gustavus Adolphus College.

Using Greek playwright Euripides' "The Trojan Women" as a historical reference point, Evans loosely adapts her work from the classical tragedy that recounted the effects of the Trojan War on the women left behind.

Evans' play, however, revolves around Lotte, a British doll-mender who has joined a singles tour of Troy, unwittingly plunging herself into an impossible time warp where her existence is parallel to that of Troy's classical heroines. Interspersed with scenes of Lotte reminding herself to order repair parts for her dolls and nattering to herself about packing her bags are scenes of the unrelenting grief suffered by her war-ravaged predecessors.

With a certain magic realism, Evans blurs the distinctions between time and place as Lotte interacts with the refugees and concubines that populate her tour itinerary. When she's plucked from her tour group and into captivity, Lotte — who symbolizes the Western nescience of the costs of war — finds herself hopelessly unable to protect her fellow captives.

Throughout the play, Evans creates and director Amy Seham maintains a taut correspondence between emotional and chronological contrasts.

"This play does veer back and forth," said the Gustavus theatre instructor. "But it knows it's doing that."

As Lotte waxes coquettishly about her gentlemanly suitor, Cassandra (the Greek woman cursed by Apollo with insanity) delivers violently sexual prophecies. In the midst of her tour, Lotte yearns for a cold lemonade in "one of those cute Turkish cafes"; meanwhile, Hecuba searches desert sands for the remains of her children.

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