An Iliad at theREP

Popular adaptation of classic Greek tale fuses words and music

in a spare, modern telling, March 10–April 2

 

 

A man stands in a broken space. Now. Today. A cello plays. He speaks. The years come pouring out. What’s past is gone, what’s past is here.

Lisa Peterson and Denis O’Hare’s recasting of Homer’s great epic is, simply put, a tour de force. Bone simple. Throbbingly theatrical. And rendered in spellbinding fashion. An Iliad plays at Capital Repertory Theatre March 10–April 2.

The writers (who based their adaptation on Robert Fagle’s translation of The Iliad) opted for the title An Iliad, because their play is The Poet’s story, and everyman’s story. Compressed, focused and brilliantly revamped, An Iliad brings the eternal tale of the Trojan War—specifically the duel between Hector and Achilles—into our midst, told in today’s terms, with humor, pathos and vision. It is, ultimately, a tale that must be told, by a lone figure, compelled to recite his saga forever.

For An Iliad, theREP’s stage will be stripped of any beauty, becoming a home, instead for the very roots of the dramatic form—words, sounds, ideas.

Those who tackle An Iliad are given a certain freedom by its creators, to put their own mark on the show, to tell the story in their own way. Director Margaret E. Hall has chosen the cello of Kathleen Bowman as the id of her Iliad, and its thrumming, chest-deep sound resonates through the 90-minute one-act play, creating more than just a framework, but a literal call-and-response with The Poet.

David Barlow is The Poet, taking all on a journey to ancient Greece and back again, singing of humanity, speaking of inhumanity and, in the show’s most remarkable, famous scene, intoning a litany of virtually every war man has waged since Homer’s day.

“We knew this play was pertinent when we first planned the season,” says Hall. “But in the time since, its message has become even more potent. The political climate is as unsure at its ever been. An Iliad is a warning, a reminder to keep our heads.”

Hall, theREP’s assistant to the producing artistic director, makes her MainStage debut with An Iliad. She brings a fresh, unique perspective to the piece, and has worked closely with Barlow and Bowman to create a seamless, nimble score, with room for the musician to respond to every mood and phrase. Largely built from improvisations, the underscoring is uniquely collaborative, reflecting, like Hall’s interpretation, Barlow and Bowman’s concerns about our collective history.

“This is storytelling in its purest, most ancient form,” Hall says. “The oral tradition of the Greeks is still powerful. There is a direct connection from The Poet to the audience. He is telling his tale because the world needs to hear it, again and again.”

“David and Kathleen are passionate to do justice to this text. They are amazing, intense and smart together.”

Hall holds a master of fine arts degree in directing from the University of Essex, East 15 Acting School, London. She has worked extensively as a teaching artist, director and producer with youth theatre programs nationally and internationally, including multiple tours of theREP’s On-The-Go! program.

Barlow makes his Capital Repertory Theatre debut as The Poet. He has performed locally with Berkshire Theatre Group and his regional resume extends to Berkeley Rep, Portland Center Stage, Hartford Stage, Actors Theater of Louisville, Kansas City Rep and Philadelphia Theater Company as well as many European venues. In New York, he appeared at PTP/NYC, Theater for A New Audience, The Play Company, Primary Stages and New York Theater Workshop. Barlow has a master of fine arts degree from NYU’s Tisch Graduate Acting Program.

Bowman, an Ohio native who mastered in music at the University of Tennessee, leads The Bowman Cello Studio, a Suzuki-based teaching center in Saratoga Springs. She has performed with the Oak Ridge Symphony Orchestra, Hot Springs Music Festival Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra and Esopus Chamber Orchestra among others. Bowman’s recent collaboration, The Brown Bag Music Project, offered interactive concerts to underserved populations, and was funded by a significant grant from the Community Foundation of the Greater Capital Region.

Hall’s creative team includes Lighting Designer Rachel Budin (The Taming of the Shrew, Old Wicked Songs, The Secret Garden, Venus in Fur), Sound Designer Janie Bullard (Outside Mullingar, The Trip to Bountiful), Scenic Designer Bill Clarke (Nixon’s Nixon, Sleuth, Black Pearl Sings) and Costume Designer Amber Dutton (making her Capital Repertory Theatre debut).

Preview performances for An Iliad take place March 10-12. Opening night is Tuesday, March 14. Regular performances continue through Sunday, April 2. Performance times: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday; and 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday—with matinees 3 p.m. Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday; and 2 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 8. Capital Repertory Theatre, 111 N. Pearl Street, Albany. Tickets range from $20 to $55. Students with valid ID: $16 all shows.

Opening night includes live music in the café at 6:30 p.m., and complimentary post-show champagne and dessert from Bella Napoli Bakery. The Chef’s Table performance, on Tuesday, March 21, includes live pre-show music and complimentary hors d’oeuvres for ticketholders from Yono’s/dp, beginning at 6:30 p.m. in the lobby (sponsored by the Center for Economic Growth).

Discussion nights with the cast of An Iliad take place 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 22, preceding the performance; and following the show, Wednesday, March 29.

The Sunday, April 2 matinee is preceded by a Behind-the-Scenes event, which features complimentary light breakfast fare for ticketholders, and discussion led by theREP’s Producing Artistic Director Maggie Mancinelli-Cahill. Food service begins at 12:30 p.m., with the presentation following from 1–1:30 p.m.

The 2016–2017 Season at Capital Repertory Theatre is sponsored by KeyBank.

An Iliad at Capital Repertory Theatre is sponsored by Omni Development Company, Inc. and E. Stewart Jones, Hacker, Murphy, LLP.