Homer's Iliad: Book One

  • Date:
    April 1, 2009
    Review by:
    Tulis McCall

    A review by Tulis McCall

    I get so confused with the Greeks. They�re just like the Brits. Good gravy, do you suppose they�re related? I mean do you think that the Greeks might have turned into Romans or something and traveled North and well, mixed it up with the Celts or whoever was living up in jolly old You Know Where?

    Seems possible to me. Everyone knows everyone�s lineage. Everyone is mad at everyone. Everyone wants the throne. Oh, and there is usually a woman involved. Not as a ruler or anything, but as bait. The women get passed around like convertibles with whitewalls.

    Oh yeah, they�re related.

    In this production of the Iliad the excellent Aquila Theatre brings Homer�s story of Achilles to the Lortel. I do like this company. They can tell a story without opening their mouths. Indeed, much of this production is mimed so that you get the ghastly and ghostly bits of war in a slow motion rendering. It�s easier to see that way, and harder to stomach.

    Aquila�s approach is to take the story and put it in the hands of soldiers who tell the tale to keep themselves awake and alive. Each actor plays several roles and there is not a dud among them, with the exception of a few who claim moments of glory by taking shouting to a new level. This might be worth it were we in an amphitheatre, but the Lortel is on the cozy side. The setting appears to be World War II in both costume and sound. We are reminded via smoke (and a lot of it) and the recurring stereo sound of bombers that we are not safe. It is chilling. Drop in the story of Achilles, Agamemnon, Apollo and the Trojans and your mind starts to spin.

    In the telling of the tale, however, Aquila has focused more on the style rather than the substance, so while the essence of the story is clear, the details become murky. Identities become confused. Who is doing what to whom and WHY? We get the sturm and drang and lose the characters. This makes the production lose something in the translation as it were, because it is these very details on which the legends depend. The motto of the Greeks is �Obey the Gods and they will hear you when you pray.�

    But if they don�t know who you are when they hear you, the gods could lower the boom on the wrong army.

    One way or another, I guess they always do. That�s war, is it not?

    Tulis McCall

    What the press had to say.....

    "nourishing for regular theatregoers hungry for a classic nibble."
    Leonard Jacobs
    Back Stage

    "hard to follow and easy to watch."
    David Rooney