Monday, April 8, 2013

An Heroic "An Iliad"

Not “The” Iliad but “An Iliad”

By Skip Sheffield

“An Iliad” for our time?
Yeah baby; as long as people fight wars, Homer’s 3,000-year-old poem sadly will never go out of style.
“An Iliad” is a one-man show (with plenty of technical support) starring the gifted actor writer and comedian Avi Hoffman. It runs through April 21 in the black box theater of Mizner Arts Cultural Center in Boca Raton.
“An Iliad” is a vindication for Outre Theatre Company, which had a less than sterling debut with “A Wild Party” last year. “An Iliad” is as focused and spare as “Wild Party” was overstuffed, sprawling and disjointed.
Avi Hoffman is a lifetime theater professional best known for his humorous “Too Jewish” series of shows. In this Iliad, he is dressed in contemporary battle garb on a set the looks like it could be anywhere in the Middle East.
The Iliad is an epic poem attributed to the Greek poet Homer, who lived sometime in the eighth century B.C.  “The Iliad” tells the epic story of the bitter, destructive ten-year Trojan War between the Trojans of Ilium or Troy and the invading Greeks. The main characters are King Agamemnon of Greece and Achilles, the fierce warrior of Troy. Chryses, a Trojan priest of Apollo, has offered a large reward for the return of his abducted daughter Chryseis, but Agamemnon has stubbornly refused, ensuring the conflict will continue.
“The Iliad” is nearly 16,000 lines. “An Iliad” lasts only 90 minutes, without intermission. Few but the most serious scholars have read the entire Iliad. This translation by Denis O’Hare and Lisa Peterson cuts to the chase. Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman said it most succinctly: “War is Hell.”
A knowledge of Greek gods and goddesses is useful but not mandatory. In the poet’s telling we pretty much know who is who. Thanks to Hoffman’s artistry the various characters male, female, animal and divine are all distinct and easy to understand. Lighting and sound cues are used to indicate time and scene changes and mood, such as the recurring blood-red filter. Screen projections depict ancient Greece and Troy.
Wars are caused by base emotions: greed, jealousy, coveting, overweening pride and malicious lies.
You will find all in evidence in this sometimes funny, often somber parade of human folly. This may not be “The” Iliad but as “An Iliad,” it drives home its points with impressive accuracy.
Tickets are $40 adults, $35 seniors and $30 students. Call 954-300-2149 or go to

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