Wednesday, October 15, 2014

An Iliad at Ensemble


     For those that don’t have tickets yet for An Iliad, stop reading this review, and go online or call Ensemble Theatre immediately and purchase them.  For those that do, you have something to look forward to because this may prove to be the most memorable theatrical tour de force since Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001, 2003) and feature the best local performance since Dale Hodges starred in Wit (1999) or Bruce Cromer played Prior Walter in
the Angels in America diptych at Human Race (1997).  That isn’t to say there haven’t been wonderful productions and performances in the past decade locally, but there hasn’t been a gut punch (emotionally, intellectually, and aesthetically) quite like this one.

Denis O'Hare
in the Title Role*

     Lisa Peterson and Denis O’Hare adapted from Robert Fagles’ translation of The Iliad.  O’Hare performed it Off-Broadway a couple of years ago.
Bruce Cromer**
Bruce Cromer becomes a graceful whirlwind as he invokes the theatrical gods and, inthe course of the story, the Classical Greek Gods to embody the conflict of the Trojan War and, not coincidentally, the root of all strife resulting in long-term historic destructions.  He performs in a variety of styles from casual, contemporary, and almost off-the-cuff to a performance studies storytelling set up of multiple character scenes to a grandly stylized oratorical mode.  He’s a virtuoso who never loses focus and always finds his light, even when it’s less than a foot in diameter.  Seeing his performance sweat pulled me further into the experience.  He’s amazing, though my one quibble is that his Helen wasn’t as surprising as the rest of his repertoire of characters.

Mehring's Set and Lutz's Propping**
     Michael Evan Haney’s paces the piece sharply and retains a number of metaphoric and meta-theatrical levels throughout.  Brian c. Mehring’s set and, especially, lighting are both quietly sensational.  Shannon Rae Lutz’s props are simultaneously unassuming and elegiac.  After a couple of audience members turned off their phones (really, turn them off before entering the theatre, not after the lights have dimmed), I could have heard a pin drop from the moment Cromer first spoke through the final blackout.

*Photo by Joan Marcus
**Photos from the ETC website

An Apropos Trompe L'oeil on
Central Parkway Near Ensemble Theatre

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