Helen of…Egypt?

Angelica Garcia, Staff Writer

The age-old Greek myth of Helen of Troy has been reinvented once again in Ellen McLaughlin’s play Helen, now playing at the Next Theater Company. The general understanding of her story is that Zeus, Helen’s father, impregnates Leda, the Queen of Sparta and wife to King Tyndareus.

There are different versions of how Helen and Paris meet, but they all end in a love affair where Paris entices Helen to go to Troy with him. Angered and insulted, Menelaus, Helen’s husband, raises the largest army known in history. The Trojan War lasts 10 years and ends with the devastation of Troy.

There have been many versions of her story told over time. Ellen McLaughlin’s play is based on Euripides’ play Helen, which was influenced by Herodotus’ version. In this version Helen is exiled to Egypt and never goes to Troy. Hera conjures up a duplicate of Helen made out of cloud to be taken by Paris.

Helen stays in Egypt throughout the Trojan War anticipating the arrival of her husband. The play takes place in Helen’s elaborate hotel room where she is doomed to bad cable reception, frequent manicures, and impossibly insensitive servants. Seventeen years pass and she receives no information about the war.

As a resul, she lies in her plush pillows and Egyptian cotton sheets waiting to be rescued. In the process she encounters interesting conversations with the goddess Athena, a shepherdess (Io), and her confused husband Menelaus.

Through these comedic conversations, McLaughlin explores the struggles of women in society, as well as the struggles within themselves. She uncovers the universal feeling of being a woman despite the changes in time, culture and generation.

She manages to modernize this epic story and apply it to serious issues in today’s world. She also deals the relationship between human beings and the belief in higher powers, as well as the media’s obsession with image.

The characters were are all played enthusiastically, and the actors delivered an enjoyable performance. The play can get a little boring from time to time, and you might find yourself lost. However, it is still full of beautiful, confusing and random bits of poetry which are extremely thought-provoking.

Be prepared to use the washroom beforehand, as it is a 95- play with no intermission. Performances run through October 15, 2006 at the Noyes Cultural Center. For information about tickets call the box office at (847) 475-1875, ext. 2.