THE TROJAN WOMEN: A LOVE STORY, Speaking Ring Theatre Company, at Women in the Director's Chair Theater. In this version of Euripides' tragedy, Charles Mee combines his two primary obsessions in one awkward package, intertwining the horrors of war, particularly as they affect women and children, with trite sound-bite deconstructions of gender identity and relationships. Mee's play is essentially two related one-acts. The first follows the original more or less faithfully but adds items from Berlioz's Les troyens, present-day eyewitness accounts of atrocities, and various pop songs and modern-dress conceits. The second considers gender differences as embodied by escaped Trojan hero Aeneas and Dido, the mystical queen of Carthage he beds and abandons.
Director Kevin Gladish and his coadapters, Michael Brownlee and Mercedes Rohlfs, have made some wise cuts, particularly in the first act, that keep the pacing taut. The cast is also largely solid--Jennifer Leavitt is a quiet marvel as Hecuba--and some of the double casting adds sly resonance to the text, particularly Sara Patsy's dual roles as defiant dominatrix-seer Cassandra and a new age tarot-reading Dido. But unlike Seneca's streamlined, almost unbearably nihilistic version of the story (given a strong production by Mary Zimmerman at the Goodman last spring), Mee's cutesy-pie approach--devoted to the crazy little thing called love--undercuts the devastations of war without telling us anything new about the battle between the sexes.