By David Walters
“I am on a journey. I’m walking away from the house. Away from laundry, the peeling of vegetables, dirty dishwashers, and dinner promptly at six,” says Helen. No, she’s not abducted and hauled off to Troy in this rendition. She walks away of her own accord from the people and restrictions that life has imposed on her in her station and as a woman.
Instead of being stolen (as most of the myths about her imply), Helen goes on a journey of self-discovery leaving behind motherhood and the role it forces women into as a “delivery system” for having babies. Her travels teach her that, “I can build a fire. I’m familiar with ways of the road,” but that’s about it, unfortunately. Her journey keeps leading her back to where she began, illustrated by the actress playing Helen, Lanxing Fu, running around behind the audience several times to come right back on stage to where she took off from. That witty saying, no matter where you go there you are, seems to apply. Such is the plight of women the play suggests.
Fate, blame, womanhood, motherhood, a drive to move forward when you’re constantly going nowhere, are only some of the female-focused themes thrown out in Helen by playwright Caitlin George. In this rendition of the myth of Helen, “Don’t blame me” is the overriding fallout of Helen being Helen, “I just wanted and didn’t want to ask for it,” Menelaus being Menelaus, and Paris being Paris.
“Was this the face that launched a thousand ships / And burnt the topless towers of Ilium?” (Doctor Faustus)
No, not this take on the Helen myth. No ships.
With all these themes coursing through the piece and all the historical treatises dating back prior to the 7th century BC that the name Helen is saddled with, the essence of the myth of Helen is only lightly danced upon and the play seeks to fly in a more contemporary realm of examining what it means to be a woman. Keeping (unfortunately) many elements of a stylized presentation. What’s missing are the important elements of human connection instead of the self-important prancing about of gods, goddesses, and kings.
This is an all-female cast and female-themed presentation on womanhood where each in their time plays many parts gender be damned, save one. I’m curious, with the subject matter being so female-oriented and what the play is trying to discuss so female-focused, why they held to the save one. It weakened the piece. I get what the play is trying to say, I’m on board. The presentation drifts away on its own.
La Mama in association with En Garde Arts presents The SuperGeographics’ production of Helen by Caitlin George, directed by Violeta Picayo at La MaMa (66 E 4th St,
New York, NY 10003), October 13–29, 2023. Tickets HERE.
The performance will run approximately 90 minutes, with no intermission.
As always, this is just one person’s opinion in a world filled with them.