The Iliad: An Oddity written by Charlie McMeekin of The Randolph Herald
"The" Iliad is a war epic full of crime and violence, believed by scholars to be the world's first epic poem, written by Homer, and is where we get the word epic.
"An Iliad", the current production running at Shaker Bridge Theater in Enfield, New Hampshire, is a retelling of the battle between the Greeks and the ancient city of Troy, a ten year battle full of blood, cruelty, revenge, and deceit, and comes complete with interference from the panoply of Greek gods. With today's news filled with heart wrenching scenes from Ukraine, why voluntarily submit to experiencing a 27-centuries-old conflict in your free time?
Something about this show works, judging by the fact that the audience at the end of the 90-minute one-man show immediately rose in a standing ovation, the first I've seen that did not end until the actor came back out for a second bow. And the reason for that is the tour de force that David Bonanno brings to the stage. From his practically unnoticed entrance, walking in with a small travel bag wearing a windbreaker over a flannel shirt, to his equally humble, "Thank you so much for coming" ending, he held everyone in the house in thrall. It's impressive that one person can recite ninety minutes' worth of lines, but to create a persona who carries the weight of the world on his shoulders, and keeps on struggling, is high art. At least twice during the show, he states clearly that he "does not want to sing this song", but he goes on, because he must, because the song matters. And the drama builds until near the end, when he begins a passionate recitation of wars, from Troy through to. . . Ukraine. There are tears. . .his and ours, as he goes through wars we've never heard of, and those we remember distinctly, all blurring into a tapestry of what it has been to be human. Bonanno deftly uses all the skills of performance: timing, facial expression, genuine eye contact with the audience, movement, physical commitment, intentionality, and silence. He's received excellent reviews from The Chicago Tribune and The New York Times, and he's certainly getting one from The Herald of Randolph! It's believed that both the Iliad and The Odyssey were actually meant to be sung, and that Homer himself sang them. Music for this show was composed and performed by Lisa Brigantino, and its understated quality stood in appropriate contrast to Bonanno's work. Kudos also to director Susan Haefner, whose work is best understood by those behind the scenes, but credit must be given for the magic that took us back to ancient Troy. Theater can help us take a hard look at hard topics, and send us home with a deeper understanding of and appreciation for this time we spend on earth. That, dear readers, is why we go. An Iliad runs through May 1. Complete ticket information can be found at shakerbridgetheatre.org, or by calling 603-448-3750.