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San Francisco by Richard Connema

A Powerful Production of An Iliad

Also see Richard's reviews of Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson and Of Thee I Sing

An Iliad
Henry Woronicz
In An Iliad, Lisa Peterson and Denis O'Hara's adaptation of Homer's poem "The Iliad" translated by Robert Fagles, Henry Woronicz's portrayal of The Poet provides the audience with one of the most insightful performance I have seen this year. Woronicz holds the audience in the palm of his hand throughout the whole performance. He inhabits many of the war's characters, such as Homer, Achilles, Paris, Menelaus, Patroclus and, yes, even Helen.

This co-production with the La Jolla Playhouse is a riveting show aided by Brian Ellingsen on bass standing on the upper right side of the proscenium stage. On the stark, industrial set, bare with the exception of a utility sink and metallic lighting fixtures that could be Bronze Age soldiers' helmets, stands the poet, who is destined to continue travelling the globe and repeating and reliving the story of the Trojan War. He is exhausted and sometimes forgetful, but he needs the audience to bear witness to that ancient war and, explicitly and implicitly, all wars. He has the audience spellbound as he generates images such as inhabiting the rage of Achilles as he plans an attack on Hector, or as Hector who is passionate with defending his home of Troy. He even compares the anger of Achilles to te road rage that takes place on our highways. His visit to the "front lines" of the battle is heartfelt, as he identifies each "body" by name and age and what they could have become had they lived.

Henry Woronicz breathlessly, without missing a beat and with machine gun like delivery, recites the names of 144 wars on Earth by their timeline. This is an awesome tour de force of acting. He uses only a table, a suitcase and a chair as his props. Scott Zielinski's lighting mirrors the Poet's moods, and sound design by Mark Bennett, who also wrote the original compositions for the bass, is perfect of this intense drama. Lisa Paterson's direction is sharp and beautifully paced.

An Iliad plays through November 18th at the Thrust Stage, 2025 Addison Street, Berkeley. For tickets and information call 510-647-2949 or on line at www.berkeleyrep.org. Their next production will be The White Snake, a co-production with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, opening on November 9 and running through December 23rd.


Photo: kevinberne.com


Cheers - and be sure to Check the lineup of great shows this season in the San Francisco area

- Richard Connema



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