Oscar E Moore

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An Iliad – Starring Denis O’Hare or Stephen Spinella

March 8th, 2012 by Oscar E Moore

Stephen Spinella & Denis OHare

Stephen Spinella & Denis O'Hare

Who would want to see a one man version of The Iliad?  As it turns out everyone should.  The Gods of Olympus have smiled down and wholeheartedly blessed this heroic production – “An Iliad” based on Homer’s original and translated by Robert Fagles – adapted by Denis O’Hare & Lisa Peterson.

It is impeccably directed by Lisa Peterson and stars Denis O’Hare or Stephen Spinella sharing the role of The Poet (in repertory at The New York Theatre Workshop) in one of the most grueling roles ever created for the theatre.

I saw Stephen Spinella.  A stupendous Stephen Spinella.  Entering in a shaft of white light, wearing an old military coat, and carrying a small suitcase his bare feet striding on a bare stage Mr. Spinella begins to tell the tale of The Trojan War in all its gory glory in mesmerizing fashion with a simple table and a chair as his co-stars.

Moving with the grace of a young Marcel Marceau who speaks Classic Greek, becoming all the characters – Agamemnon, Hector, Achilles, Hermes (who wears “fabulous sandals”), Apollo, Patroclus, Priam, Paris and Andromeda et al – invoking them with the power of a Gladiator, Mr. Spinella confides in the audience as if we were all sharing a beer in a bar.

His listing of all wars of all ages is impossible to imagine being memorized.

When did I first become aware of the bassist (the sensational Brian Ellingsen) high up on a grid on the left side of the theatre?  I really can’t say.  So seamlessly did he become Mr. Spinela’s true co-star.

Accompanying the tale with its score imbued in his mind and fingers – without any sheet music to reference.  The two play off of each other as if they were a concerto for actor and bass.  The score by Mark Bennett is brilliant – with the use of some sort of percussion instrument the only other source of musical sound effects.

Lighting design by Scott Zielinski is equally impressive.

Hopefully this extremely moving “An Iliad” will enlighten at along last and help us to change our wasteful ways.

www.nytw.org Photo: Joan Marcus

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