Regional Reviews: Philadelphia
As with Homer's classic text, Lisa Peterson and Denis O'Hare's An Iliad starts nine years into the war that Paris kicked off by stealing beautiful Helen away from King Menelaus of Sparta. We meet mighty Achilles and noble Hector, Greek soldiers clash against Trojans, and a pantheon of powerful and petty gods tip the scales one way and then the other.
Under Rebecca Wright's masterful direction, Tuomanen tells the story as though she stood on the shores of Troy, saw the Greek military encampments with her own eyes, and loved each soldier who fought and died in the battle. That sense of individual emotional connection is potent. And devastating. Our poet also connects directly with the audience, updating references and imagery to suit a modern American lexicon.
The incorporation of modern military references is an effective way of making the ancient stories feel relevant, but it also informs the play's strong anti-war themes. Throughout the story we are reminded that war is always brutal and horrific. That the people who control and benefit from military conflict are rarely the ones who pay with their lives. And that war takes a devastating toll on soldiers and civilians, friends and families, parents and children in endless expanding circles.
Jordan McCree's excellent sound design and haunting original music add richness and texture. Jillian Keys' stark set gives Tuomanen plenty of different areas and levels to work with, even in the Bob and Selma Horan Studio Theatre's limited blackbox space. Maria Shaplin's dramatic lighting design ratchets up the emotional intensity. Each element accentuates Tuomanen's exquisite performance in the surprising, intense, and distressingly relevant An Iliad.
An Iliad runs through December 15, 2019, at Arden Theatre Company, 62 N. 2nd Street, Philadelphia PA. For tickets and information, visit ardentheatre.org.
Featuring Mary Tuomanen