The few songs—melody and lyrics by the play’s author, Chuck Faerber—are based on 1950s rock and roll ballad chord progressions, catchy 60s’ pop tunes, and hip hop. Though “set” around 1250 B.C., “Greeks 6-Trojans 5” is by no means wedded to historical authenticity.
A cross between “Animal House,” and “Godspell,” the play combines pop culture, a slew of dated sexual double entendres (many more references to the male member than to female genitalia), and modern-day sensibilities to recreate in a spirit of pure fun and silliness life among some Greeks, circa 1250 BC.
“Greeks 6-Trojans 5” works quite well in Act One as the playwright rolls out a series of distinctively funny characters, like one of those jam sessions on Comedy Central. By the middle of Act Two, however, our familiarity with their quirks begins to cut into the production’s broad humor. We are no longer so inclined to laugh against our better judgment.
The story of the Trojan Horse is one of the few from ancient Greece with which contemporary audiences will be familiar. Still, Faerber and director Richard Kuhlman, who also worked on the text, offer in Act One a necessary refresher course on why the Greeks and Trojans went to war and the imposing physical barriers the former faced in seeking to invade the latter.
From faded textbooks, theatergoers will recall the exterior of the wooden horse, especially its bulging eyes and long jaw. But what of the anxious souls inside that astonishing figure waiting to execute what would become one of the most famous invasions in human history? Thanks to Faerber, we now know what they were truly feeling and thinking.
Or perhaps not. Either way, it’s a clever idea. The playwright has combined a few characters whose names will be recognizable—Agamemnon and Corinthian—with others who are presumably invented—such as Megamanus and Uselles—to tell his kooky story.
Another character, Cnesson, the scribe, is revealed to be one of the most famous writers who ever lived. I won’t divulge his true identity except to say that you will hear his name uttered regularly on ESPN’s “Baseball Tonight.”
This ragtag band of eight men and one woman experiences a range of emotions as it waits for orders to attack. Thanks to the prophecy of a trippy priest named Sargassus, the troops are informed that their team will win a narrow victory, by the score of 6 to 5 to be precise. Yet that information doesn’t assuage the soldiers’ well-grounded fears that they are in peril.
Kuhlman gives his actors the space to be ridiculous. A good example is John Marzilli’s Megamanus, who through much of the production wears the crazed grin of a macho high school football coach. Marzilli both embodies and pokes fun at the ideal of the rugged military man. Geoffrey Kennedy’s Corinthian teaches us that gay Greeks could be just as flamboyant as the protagonist of “Les Cage Aux Folles.”
Huddled over his notepad, lost in words, Corey Rieger personifies the hip journalist who aspires to a higher form of writing. As Hedrix, the lone African American character, tall, athletic Christopher T. Wood, has the bearing of a true soldier. His cover is blown, however, once his hands tremble after receiving a weapon. Turns out he’s never killed anyone before.Cheryl Bricker’s Acacia needs to project more passion to allow us to fully appreciate and enjoy the sight of a woman leading a bunch of men to battle.
“Greeks 6-Trojans 5” plays Saturday at 8 and Sunday at 3 through September 8. Tickets are $25. They may be purchased online at http://plays411.com or by calling (323) 960-7774. The Whitefire Theatre is located at 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks.