The Depth and Beauty of Helen

Helen – A drama by Ellen McLaughlin. Directed by Shannon R Davis.  Theatre of Yugen 2840 Mariposa Street San Francisco,

March 29-April 27 2019

True to its mission, Theatre of Yugen brings to life Helen, a dramatic work based on an ancient story, with the current version examining women bearing witness to their power, or not; and beauty, and the power and weakness society places on it.

McLaughlin has written a beautifully complex play, bordering on esoteric. It can be easy to get lost in the rich dialog, but the cast does a superb job of holding the audience rapt, even if confused.   The acting was masterful.  Adrian Deane (Helen) and Stefani Potter  (Athena) were standouts; like a jealous lover their performances pull you in and push you away and pull you back in again.  Adrian ‘s (Helen’s) hope and fear and frustration were palpable and authentic.  Leticia Duarte (Servant ) and Helen Wu (Io) were a beautiful balance on stage next to Adrian (Helen).  Leticia (Servant)  provided a powerful grounding juxtaposed to Adrian (Helen).  Watching Leticia (servant) you almost feel your own feet relax while observing their discussion as Leticia (Servant) massages her (Helen’s) feet,  and you wonder if you haven’t been watching someone in a hotel after all.  Steven Flores (Menelaus) performance brings a wonderful contradiction, exuding both vulnerably and strength, evoking pity and ire.

McLaughlin expects you to bring your A-game to appreciate the play and it’s refreshing to have content that equates entertainment with intellectual and still remain entertainment.  This piece is not meant to relax you, but make you think.  The set design, props, costumes, are all very thought out.  Even the hanging of Helen’s dresses – every prop serves the story, or theme.  The dialog requires your utmost attention – enjoy the delicious “dirty” apple cider prior to the play on a full stomach, so as not to miss each beat. The layering of themes and the incredible acting will have you and other playgoers with plenty to talk about afterward.

The show has closed. Please contact the theatre for other upcoming riveting plays and performances.