BWW Review: AN ILIAD at Atlas Performing Arts Center

BWW Review: AN ILIAD at Atlas Performing Arts Center
Photo by Ryan Maxwell Photography

An Iliad is not the epic poem you remember from your freshman Western lit class. This Iliad, written by Lisa Peterson and Denis O'Hare and directed by Tony Award®-nominated producer Conor Bagley, is an urgent reminder that war, violence, and especially rage are ever present in our world.

"We envision our Poet having told the tale of the Iliad throughout history, but now living among millennials," says DC native Bagley. "He's done his research. He's walked around in our shoes. He's felt our rage. Now it's our turn to watch how he conveys this powerful, ancient story to a new generation."

As the Ione Poet, Iason Togias lulls the audience into a sense of thrall that would make even the most engaging college professor envious. Returning the tale to its roots in oral tradition, Togias evolves throughout the piece into a masterful storyteller, inhabiting such well-known figures as Achilles, Hector, even the infamous Helen, with an intensity that fills the intimate theatre.

BWW Review: AN ILIAD at Atlas Performing Arts Center
Photo by Ryan Maxwell Photography

More than mere accompaniment, composer Matt Chilton serves as Muse to Togias' Poet, his original music elevating and enhancing the performance, at once foreboding and animate. Daniel Prosky's production design is brilliant in its simplicity. The classic historian's den is given an ethereal, Grecian quality; the lighting reminiscent of an unseen bonfire.

Despite definite (and merciful) moments of brevity, there is a growing urgency to the Poet's telling, a heaviness evoked by the knowledge, both his and that of the audience, that the lessons of the Iliad have not yet been learned, that conflict and violence have not been eradicated.

"When it comes to war, millennials occupy an unusual moment in American history," says Togias. "While we're inundated with images and reports of bloodshed, we have less direct experience of war than most generations before us. With this production, we wanted to explore how the story of the Iliad still speaks to us as profoundly as ever, despite our relative distance from the horrors it depicts."

An Iliad runs through June 9 at the Atlas Performing Arts Center. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit aniliaddc.com.

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From This Author Sarah Murphy

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