An Iliad – Review by Bonnie Goldberg

Rachel Christopher is an extraordinary and gifted storyteller, at one moment lyrical and at the next filled with rebellion. Smoothly transitioning from ancient Greece to modern day, she spins a tale of the devastation of war, back in Troy up to the present. She easily proves Aristotle’s point that “only the dead have known the end of war.”

Humanity has yet to learn the price we pay as a civilization for wrecking devastation on another people. To become immersed in this tale as old as time, come to Stage II at Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven to experience “An Iliad,” adapted from Homer, by Lisa Peterson and Denis O’Hare, translated by Robert Fagles, by Sunday, April 14.

This is an epic poem brought to dramatic life as gods and goddesses, warriors and wars, leap to the forefront of the stage. As the poet, Rachel Christopher addresses the audience in a personal manner, like a co-conspirater, revealing the tragedy of armed confrontation. For ten years, the city of Troy has been under siege by the armies of Greece. The sad truth is that this conflict took place almost three thousand years ago and the world has yet to learn a lesson about domination and devastation and the futility of both.

We quickly are acquainted with the facts that King Agamemnon has taken the young maiden Chrysels as a prize of war, and her father wants her returned. The King, afraid of the wrath of the god Apollo, agrees to surrender her if he can have Achilles’ concubine Briseis in her place. Achilles has no intention of complying, even when the warrior Hector threatens him. Wanting peace, Achilles sends his brother in arms Patroclus, donning Achilles’ armor, onto the battlefield. Patroclus is killed, spurring Achilles to action, resulting in Hector’s demise.

Experiencing evident pain in the retelling of the tale, the Poet is accompanied by the Muse, Zdenke Martin, who uses his guitar and other musical instruments to emphasize the dramatic moments, highlighting her words. The tale culminates in an incredibly long detailing of all the wars and conflicts men have orchestrated, and still we have not learned the folly of our terrible actions. Director Whitney White navigates our journey through time, sprinkled as it is with Greek language, on a spellbinding narrative that is meant to educate and illuminate the history of our deeds.

For tickets ($35.50-75.50), call Long Wharf Theatre, 222 Sargent Drive, New Haven at 203-787-4282 or online at www.longwharf.org. Performances are Wednesday at 7 p.m., Thursday at 8 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.

Come be mesmerized by Rachel Christopher as you travel back in time to Troy as gods and goddesses and mortal men learn the truths of humanity and inhumanity.

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