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The Iliad at Indiana Repertory Theatre

Henry Woronicz in a Tour-de-force Performance

By: Melissa Hall - 10/22/2013

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Henry Woronicz, stars in The Iliad.
Henry Woronicz, stars in The Iliad.
Henry Woronicz  in The Iliad was one of the year’s best.
Henry Woronicz in The Iliad was one of the year’s best.
An epic Greek tale retold.
An epic Greek tale retold.
A riveting evening of theatre.
A riveting evening of theatre.

A one-man show of The Iliad doesn’t sound too promising. The epic story of the Trojan War simplified into a show with a single cast member sounds almost impossible. And yet the Indiana Repertory Theatre’s current Upperstage production blows audiences away.

An Iliad features Henry Woronicz in a tour-de-force performance. He is poet and player, warrior and widow all at the same time. He begins with the Greek language, naming cities and battles, but he quickly connects with the audience bringing the reality of war home to them.

In modern day clothes he walks the littered alleyway in a big city reminiscing about the Greeks and Trojans. If the show was performed by a less talented actor it could easily have stalled-out, losing peoples’ attention in a sea of unfamiliar Greek words. Instead it’s mesmerizing in its complexity, maintaining a comedic edge despite the serious material.

The play is based on the Iliad, but it rises above being a retelling of the well-known story. Using Robert Fagles’ translation of Homer’s original work playwrights Lisa Peterson and Denis O’Hare create a completely new play. Their creation, beautifully directed by Fontaine Syer becomes more of a meditation of war. It has an accessible conversational tone. It’s Greek tragedy that would appeal to a Rick Riordan generation, making the words of the Greeks come alive for high school students.

The play never comes across as an anti-war piece; instead it focuses on the grief and destruction caused by war. War has not changed over the past few centuries; even though it’s a necessary evil it’s no less tragic. The story of war is a simple one; it’s universally applicable to any time or place. This play recognizes that, reminding us that though the Trojan War was centuries ago, so many wars dot the timeline between now and then, connecting each war and soldier throughout the ages.

The Indiana Repertory Theatre is located at 140 W. Washington St., Indianapolis, one-half block west of the Circle Center Mall between northbound Illinois St. and southbound Capitol Ave. "The Iliad" runs until Saturday, Nov. 16 on IRT's Upperstage. Times for performances can be found at www.irtlive.com or by calling the IRT box office at (317) 635-5252. To purchase tickets call (317) 635-5252 or order online at www.irtlive.com

*Photos courtesy of Zach Rosing

Reposted from Stage Write courtesy of Melissa Hall.

Reader Comments
From "Jack Lyons"
10-23-2013, 09:03 pm
Melissa: I reviewed this show at the La Jolla Playhouse 2 years ago with Henry, directed by Lisa Peterson. Isn't he something else? And such a self effacing actor whom I met at the cast party. Lisa is a wonderful director. The piece is , as you say, mesmerizing and a tour de force. Did the Indy production have the sole musician on stage throughout? Together in La Jolla, they were a symbiotic one-two theatrical punch. Great show with a much needed message for many, if they would just listen. Nice job on your piece. Regards, Jack Lyons
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