Thursday, April 15, 2010

An Iliad--Seattle Rep

An Iliad
Seattle Repertory Theatre
April 9-May 16, 2010
Tickets and Information

“The first impression is everything,” I wrote last October about the Seattle Rep’s season opener The 39 Steps. Just as important—it seems—is going out with a bang, which is exactly what occurred tonight in the Leo K. Theater with the world-premiere presentation of An Iliad, the Rep's final show of the season.

Photo by Christ Bennion.

Two years ago, Denis O’Hare and Lisa Peterson set out to create a dramatic retelling of Homer’s The Iliad. The result is a minstrel-like evening of swapped stories that might seem commonplace in an old dive bar if it weren’t for the fact that they tell of the iconic Trojan War. The travel-weary Poet (Hans Altweis) shares tales of Achilles and Hector and Agamemnon—stories that he has memorized, told and retold for over a thousand years to anyone who would listen. Periodic references and comparisons to modern-day warfare serve to remind us of the production’s relevance and magnitude.

Seattle’s own Hans Altweis displays the skill and finesse necessary to capture and captivate the audience for the entire 90-minute journey. His Poet has seen the world many times over, both happily and painfully remembering every detail of every important event in history. Altweis gives weight and meaning to each anecdote, as if there is a hidden message somewhere within.

Photo by Chris Bennion.

Altweis’ performance is framed beautifully by the design teams’ creations. Rachel Hauck’s abandoned theatrical set gives weight to the idea that the weary Poet is here with us by accident, as if to hide from the outside elements. Marcia Dixcy Jory’s costume tells a story of its own with every tatter and worn elbow. Scott Zielinski’s lighting adds tension and mood in the right amounts at the right moments. Paul James Prendergast’s sound design extends the mood and motion into epic proportions. The polish and seamlessness of the production is owed to Lisa Peterson’s direction. Having co-authored the production herself, Peterson brings a purity of vision and imagination to a show that could have too easily become too epic to control.

An Iliad is much more than a recitation of the story we all remember from high school Lit. class; it is a reminder that while times may change, the beauty and tragedy of the human narrative never do. The Poet is the immortal audience, forever blessed (and doomed) to hold the stories worth telling. A story worth seeing.

Review by Kacey Shiflet.

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