Homer’s Iliad is here retold by a single actor accompanied by an onstage musician who plays mostly keyboard and percussion instruments to provide atmosphere and something like sound effects. Originally, one of the authors, Denis O’Hare, played the poet and recited the work. Here, actor Kyle Hatley moves about the stage enacting all the roles and passionately telling the story, speaking only to the audience. A large, white-haired man, musician Raymond Castrey, also moves about but does not speak, the two seldom regarding one another.
Haley is a muscular young man with a well-trained body and a versatile, strong vocal range capable of great power. His passionate retelling of the story of the killing of Patroklos, then of Hector, and the wrath of Achilles (playing all the parts) is dramatically effective, but no more than a great reading of the original would be. It lasts, however, for only 90 minutes. And it is staged here on a richly suggestive set designed by John Haldoupis and unusually strikingly and very imaginatively lighted by Grant Wilcoxin.
What makes this more than just a cut-down, retranslated presentation of Homer’s Iliad is partly the actor’s agonized delivery of the accounts of this devastating story of a massive war that effectively destroyed two great civilizations; but also the addition, at the end, of a punishing, horrified recitation of the names of dozens of succeeding wars through the centuries, slaughtering ever-newer civilizations, including our two world wars and stretching to our contemporary conflicts with terrorists. Kyle Hatley’s speaker is distraught at this history of man’s self-destruction, and his passion has its effect.
Kyle Hatley and Raymond Castrey
Still, the choir certainly has heard about this hymn. Some even know a more impressive version. I have an idea for a sequel about the efforts to travel home from Troy, a ten-years-long, adventurous sea journey.
By Herbert Simpson, Contributing Writer
An Iliad (Total Rating: ***1/2, out of 4)
Through February 21, 2016
Geva Theater Center – Nextstage
75 Woodbury Boulevard
Rochester, New York
Author: Lisa Peterson and Denis O’Hare Based on Homer’s The Iliad, translated by Robert Fagles
Director: Jerry Genochio
Scenic Designer: John Haldoupis
Costume Designer: Georgianna Londre Buchanon
Lighting Designer: Grant Wilcoxen
Sound Designer: Joshua Horvath
Dramaturg: Stephie Kesselring