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An Iliad ~ at the Atlas Performing Arts Center

Jordan Wright
June 5, 2018 

Conor Bagley, director of An Iliad. Photo courtesy of Conor Bagley.

Homer’s ancient Greek epic poem The Iliad springs to life in a dramatic interpretation written by Lisa Peterson and Denis O’Hare.  DC native and twice Tony-nominated director, Conor Bagley, envisions an unadorned set and simple props to present this epic odyssey of the Trojan War.  The fresh concept introduces modern day parallels to the ancient war between the Greeks and the Trojans to illustrate the futility of all wars.  It’s an electrifying examination of man’s justification and theory for waging war.

Delving into the thoughts and emotions of both warriors and Gods, the drama shows us how groupthink provides countries with the impetus for every battle.  I kept thinking about Noam Chomsky who reminds us that there is always a first strike on which hangs all retribution thereafter.  Endless aggression and limitless blame.  Thus, the concepts of bravery, honor and glory, and not being dissed by other countries, become the fulcrum for each and every war.

Iason Togias, who plays the Poet in An Iliad. Photo courtesy of Iason Togias.

For those of us who slogged through Homer and its myriad of mythological Gods and creatures, An Iliad is a game changer.  Iason Togias, who plays a myriad of roles as Poet in this condensed version – including, but not limited to Achilles, Agamemnon, Patroclus, King Priam and Hector – gives a riveting and highly energized performance from beginning to end.  An especially salient moment is when he recites, at breakneck speed, every major war that has occurred around the world since the Trojan War.  It’s the point in the play where you sigh deeply and conclude that all men are made for war.

Togias vividly recounts the enormity of the nine-year war – 10,000 Greek ships anchored off shore with each ship carrying 120 men – factoring in plagues and disease as vengefully commanded by the Gods.  Is not religion still used to justify the brutal acts of war?  In many countries it is the primary reason to do battle.

The play is translated from The Iliad by Robert Fogles and singlehandedly enacted by Togias who gives a vivid and memorable performance.  I only wish I could have had Togias as my professor for just about any topic I ever studied, including the mystery and history of the Greeks.

With Matt Chilton as Muse and Composer.  Produced by Susannah Clark and Annie Ottali.  Production Design by Daniel Prosky.

Through June 9th at the Atlas Center for the Performing Arts - 1333 H Street, NE, Washington, DC 20002.  For tickets info on post show discussions, special rates and discounts visit Mosaic Theater or call the box office at 202.399.7993 ext. 2.  Valet parking at 1360 H Street, NE.

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