Review: BETC Presents “An Iliad”
Brandon Antony • February 17, 2017 • Art •
“Anger be now your song, immortal one, Achilles anger, doomed and ruinous!” -The Poet, The Iliad
The Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company (BETC) presents “An Iliad” written by Lisa Peterson and Dennis O’Hare, and performed at the Grace Gamm Theater within the beautiful Dairy Arts Center in Boulder, CO. The play, which runs for one hour, 40 minutes without intermission, is a one-man performance that portrays key segments of Homer’s epic lyrical poem about the events surrounding the Trojan War and of its two greatest warriors, Achilles and Hector.
“An Iliad” is directed by Stephen Weitz, who is also a founding member of the BETC’s Artistic Ensemble. His talents include not only directing but also performing in numerous other productions. Weitz depicts, elegantly, an interpretation of “An Iliad” which reminds the audience how even epic poetry can transform and have significance through time. The performance is a portrayal of a literary classic, interpreted through a contemporary poetic lens. An artistic use of staging, perfectly timed lighting and sound, along with a brilliant array of storytelling brings the audience into the magic of ancient verse.
A tattered wire fence and a battered brick wall sets the scene as The Poet stands in the stairway pleading with the Muses, “I mustn’t go on!” The plot moves seamlessly through The Poet and his interaction with the Muses in the war-torn alleyway of modern America. “An Iliad” can evoke a different message than has been presented in the past retellings of Homer’s epic. Instead of focusing on the fury and rage of Achilles, we as the audience are asked, Where do these powerful emotions stem from, and how do we deal with them?
The main and only character, The Poet, is played by Chris Kendall. Kendall has acted in many different productions in the Boulder-Denver Area. The Poet, Bard, or Aoidoi (meaning singer in Greek) perpetuates this ancient oral tradition, traditionally carried on by trained individuals through the memorization of lyrical verse and narrative storytelling techniques. Kendall’s performance as The Poet was top of the class, to say the least, with his outstanding stage presence, stage awareness and vocal ability. Fated to tell his story throughout history endlessly, The Poet’s captivating performance brings clarity and new light into Homer’s epic.
War is something which exists everywhere throughout the ages; war is eternal. The contemporary retelling of an ancient epic is very important in our day and age. We as individuals need these messages from our past. Yet the common person needs these messages delivered in a way which can be understood and felt intuitively. This understanding roots itself in the heart of the story, The Poet passionately presses the audience into the memory of every war and conflict to the current age.
In a world where people are already unlikely to read any literature out of their comfort zones, “An Iliad” gives that common person a foundation to stand on. A story which has affected every single individual in the Western world, whether they know it or not. “The Iliad” has been orally recited, told and retold throughout the ages, changing a tiny bit with each retelling. Each writing. Each translation. Morphing its needs to suit the times. “An Iliad” guides the audience into a familiar space by weaving current events into a radically breathtaking story which can be envisioned, breathed in, and experienced passionately in the comfort of the theater seats.
“An Iliad” runs Feb. 4-26 in The Dairy Center’s Grace Gamm Theatre.Tickets