TR Robertson… The latest production at Carlsbad’s New Village Arts Theatre, “An Iliad”, is an amazing recreation of the story of the classic tale of the Trojan War told through a personal narrative by a person referred to as The Poet. But this story of the Trojan War is more than the story of the events and the causes of the war and the battle between the two main heroes, Achilles and Hector, but also a story that examines the destructive forces, futility and cost to civilization that war brings on all cultures through all of human existence. This recounting of the war, legend says lasted ten years and was started as the result of the kidnapping of Greek woman, is told by The Poet who has traveled through the centuries telling this tale and describing how war has effected human kind. “An Iliad” was written by Lisa Peterson and Denis O’Hara, is based on Homer’s The Iliad, and translated by Robert Fagles. Directing this production was Jacole Kitchen, the current Artistic Programs Manager for the La Jolla Playhouse.
The Poet is played by award winning actress, Linda Libby, the first woman to receive the San Diego Theatre Critics Circle Noel Award for Actor of the Year in 2013. She has appeared on numerous stages in San Diego County and the founder of San Diego Actors Alliance. Ms. Libby is nothing short of amazing as The Poet. Her 90 minute performance showed her range as an actor as The Poet went through all of the emotions that can surface as a result of war and the violence and suffering it brings. She wove a wonderful tale of her purpose in telling this classic story, the main characters and how they interacted, why Achilles and Hector became the main players in this tale (even though they weren’t directly initially involved), and how this story relates to every war ever fought. Using Classic Greek, specific lines translated from The Iliad and the story developed by artists Lisa Peterson and Denis O’Hara, The Poet discusses the human condition, revenge vs sacrifice, and, at times, what seems like an addiction people have to violence.
Entering through the backstage door, dressed in green rain gear and wearing a military helmet, The Poet enters. On stage are storage bins that has a variety of military gear in them and a clothes rack with military costumes hanging. Part way through the opening story, The Poet will unveil sails, representing the hundreds of Greek ships that sailed to Troy to retrieve Helen, who was abducted from Menelaus by the Trojan Paris. We are told that this tale is usually sung over the course of days in various cities, but The Poet prefers telling the tale in bars and other venues. We are soon introduced to The Muse, sent by the gods to provide background mood for the story. The Muse for the play is Gunnar Biggs and his double bass. Gunnar has been in the Southern California area for over forty years, performing with a number of jazz musician greats, the San Diego Opera Orchestra, taught at San Diego State University and running a private studio. The Poet will turn, occasionally, to The Muse for some emotional guidance, given by The Muse through sound.
Two especially moving scenes in “An Iliad” was an emotional listing by The Poet of cities around the United States where soldiers and victims of war come from and an equally moving scene where The Poet lists most of the wars, throughout the centuries, that have been fought. As she is doing this, the names appear on a screen in the back of the stage and pile up on one another; as wars and their victims have done throughout all of time.
Costumer Mary Larson, Set Designer John Anderson and Lighting Director Alex Crocker-Lakness provided an atmosphere on stage that added to the somber mood The Poet created verbally on stage. This is a timely, well-constructed, emotional play about a part of the history of the human experience most people wish would never occur. All in attendance also received a graphic Novel, “An Iliad”, designed by New Village Arts Director of Connectivity, AJ Knox, which helped audience members with the story of the Trojan War and all of the major players as well as a glimpse of war throughout the ages.
“An Iliad” runs until February 26th at the New Village Arts Theatre at 2787 State Street in Carlsbad. Tickets are available at 760-433-3245 or go to www.newvillagearts.org. Performing next at New Village Arts will be the Tony Award winning “Awake and Sing!” by Clifford Odets and directed by Kristianne Kurner.