Home > To See or Not To See > TO SEE OR NOT TO SEE: “An Iliad”


March 8th, 2012

Get caught up with what’s on stage with our review round-up. And that vaguely hollow, clinking sound you hear at the end of each segment? That’s me tossing in my two cents. This month, it’s all Greek to me…

Denis O'Hare in "An Iliad". Photo by Joan Marcus.


Acclaimed actors Denis O’Hare (Take Me Out, True Blood) and Stephen Spinella (Angels in America) alternate in a one-man retelling of Homer’s epic tale of Gods, mortals and violence in ancient Troy.

“The strength of An Iliad resides in the combination of a naturally exciting narrative and the engaged, virtuosic performances of both Mr. O’Hare and Mr. Spinella.” New York Times

“No matter who’s at the helm, the show is too formless, and is as well-meaning as it is heavy-handed…” New York Post

“An Iliad is pure theater: shocking, glorious, primal and deeply satisfying.” Time Out New York

An Iliad is more than a perfect night out at the theater for classics majors, of course. It’s a showcase for the acting skills of two accomplished stage veterans.” Entertainment Weekly

Brian Ellingsen in "An Iliad". Photo by Joan Marcus.

Mizer’s Two Cents: The film Troy needed $175,000,000 and Brad Pitt in a short skirt to keep audiences interested in the Trojan War. Denis O’Hare does it–and does it better–with a bare stage, his expressive voice and a passionate commitment to storytelling as something vital and powerful. Co-authored by O’Hare and director Lisa Peterson, the conceit of the piece is both modernizing and deeply moving: a roving poet, as old but as timeless as the story he will tell, is compelled to spin the tales of Troy for a modern audience even though he wishes mankind might have learned its lessons by now. He searches for the right current analogies; he falls into intoning the original Greek; he searches for guidance from the musician accompanying him (quite evocatively) from the cat walk above; he embodies goddesses and soldiers with subtle shifts of body and tone; he leans into a bottle of booze, all as the hot, full-blooded allure of violence once more takes hold of him–and us. Beyond any “message”, though, An Iliad is 100 minutes of ripping good theater.

[I haven’t had the chance to go back and see the always-empathetic Spinella but I’m definitely curious. An acquaintance affiliated with the production says that the show is fascinatingly different, even staging and music cues are changed, in his take.]

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