“Her Name Means Memory” is Indomitable Storytelling

Theater in the Covid era has gone through incredible iterations and efforts to carry on and tell the stories that need to be told. Living Room Theatre, now in its twelfth year, performs site-specific theater at the Park-McCullough Historic Governor’s Mansion in Bennington, Vermont. Since 2021, the first year performing since the onset of Covid, they have performed in a swimming pool on the grounds of the house. They had great success with Lucas Hnath’s “A Doll’s House, Part II,” and we immensely enjoyed their six-actor interpretation of “Constellations” last year.

Monique Vukovic, Anne Bates & Oliver Wadsworth/Allen McCullough

This year, Randolyn Zinn, LRT’s Artistic Director, has adapted and directed a new version of Euripides’ “Trojan Women” called “Her Name Means Memory.” It has been performing in the pool (and hopefully will again this weekend before it closes on 8/6), but we caught it at the Bennington Performing Arts Center due to the rains all afternoon Thursday. Like the war refugees in the play, the cast took their displacement and adapted; taking their in-the-round staging, flung their suitcases upstage right, and re-blocked the entire play to present it to a greatly appreciative house Thursday night. The play, the staging, the cast’s adaptability, and the will of the director and this company to tell this story against long odds make this a remarkable achievement!

“Trojan Women,” tells of the conquered women led by Hecuba, Queen of Troy (Anne Bates), and her relatives and community members as they react and fight against their awful fates as they are used as “weapons of war” as Zinn so baldly puts it in her program not. Zinn has tweaked the script, streamlining it, contemporizing it, and giving the Chorus names and backgrounds, effectively reaching out and communicating this ancient tale to today’s audience.

It is never in doubt who is the Queen onstage as Anne Bates has a terrifically appealing regal bearing and communicates her authority quickly and concisely. If she is a bit studied at times, it may well be adjusting to a new performance space with an audience within 24 hours. It’s a powerful performance.

Valeri Mudek/Allen McCullough

The cast acquit themselves exceptionally well, and if they didn’t move me deeply, they kept me involved and eager to learn more about these women and their fates, which is no small feat with this story over 2,430 years old. Valeri Mudek is an exceptional standout in the dual roles of Cassandra and Helen. She creates two wildly vivid and diametrically different characters who burst onto the stage, flare briefly, and exit quickly, leaving you wanting more. The cast also features Oliver Wadsworth doing his reliably exemplary work, playing a most humane Herald whose job to follow orders is weighing terribly on him.

Randolyn Zinn has done an amazing job bringing this ancient tale to immediate relevance and has peppered the script with great lines. “They say her breasts are so beautiful, they are jealous of each other.” It is an entertaining, committed and valuable work of art that offers great hope for the future.

“Her Name Means Memory” runs through 8/6 at Parke McCullough House. Tickets: www.lrtvt.org

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