When was the last time two fingers walking across a table ledge became a landscape, a battlefield, and a warrior in pursuit? And you could feel the suspense of a man destined to die? Feel awe at the beauty of such simplicity?
In Berkeley Rep's An Iliad, the antiquated story of the Trojan War is dusted off and the ancient tradition of the storyteller is reanimated. In this artful production, language is a demigod with the power to weave stories that transcend centuries.
Last week, I slammed Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson because, among other things, its method of contemporizing its story lost pretty much everything in the translation. But this take on Homer's ancient text shows that a buttoned down update can work terrifically. Lisa Peterson and Denis O'Hare's adaptation of Homer's epic story speaks with maturity in the language of today.
The adaptation, with a translation by Robert Fagles, makes the subject relevant with an informal but poetic narrative. The script's contemporary language and references are not gratuitous. This is An Iliad told with urgency, with the purpose of getting its modern audience to care about what happened long ago and far away, because we share a common humanity -- and because war still exists and because the spoken word can still be very effective.