What would happen if the Trojan War were fought today?
That's the premise of Shakespeare in the Park's second production of the summer, “Troilus and Cressida,” opening July 19 through Aug. 14 at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park.
Tony winner Daniel Sullivan is directing the play, one of Shakespeare's least-produced, about love in wartime amid the well-known heroes of the Trojan War, such as Hector, Achilles and Paris. The play is considered one of Shakespeare’s so-called “problem plays” because it defies being placed into any specific category: the story is part tragedy, part comedy and part romance.
“In large part, it’s a real examination of what happens to people — and to society at large — when war becomes part of the everyday experience of life, something that is just known and accepted and lived with, which certainly seems relevant to the current state of the world,” says Bill Heck, who plays Hector in the production.
The characters remain the same, but this adaptation of “Troilus and Cressida” is a contemporary one, with details not found in Shakespeare’s original like guns, cigarettes and heavy metal music — think of it like "Full Metal Shakespeare." They echo the play's darker themes, which lends it a more modern air, especially in the way the characters talk about war and violence.
The uniqueness of its outdoor setting makes it a theater experience unlike any other for both the audience and actors, according to Heck, who says Shakespeare in the Park is known among actors as the best summer job in the city.
“Because it’s free and people have been waiting in line to get tickets, there’s a real sense of common purpose and a sense of ownership of the event," he says. "It's this unique communal experience in an uncommonly beautiful setting."
Shakespeare in the Park is a free production of The Public Theater. “Troilus and Cressida” runs from July 19 through August 14. All performances begin at 8 p.m. Visit the Public Theater's website for more information about tickets.