Iliad: Book One
The Aquila Theatre's adaptation of Homer's epic tale of war treats the material with a sodden self-seriousness.
Long before we hear that famed opening incantation, we sit through an extended sequence of slow-motion soldiering that is the equivalent of shouting at the audience "What you are about to watch is an epic." And throughout the evening, director Peter Meineck continues to make small, risk-adverse choices that seem neither motivated by the source material nor compelling in their own right, such as a barren, proscenium-less stage lit in stark whites, blues, and pinks.
Setting the play during World War II -- a decision inspired by the cover of Stanley Lombardo's translation -- doesn't fly either. Homer's tale of heroes battling over slights and slave girls simply doesn't graft well, and Meineck hasn't forcefully created connections for us.
The action alternates stilted narration with declaratory shouting and betrays its seriousness only late in the game with some uneasy comedy. (Of his nagging wife, Zeus says, "You're going to force me into conflict with Hera -- I can just heara now.") Only the sequence that sets Zeus on his Olympian throne suggests the visual and dramatic tension that this 75-minute evening needs so as not to feel a great deal longer.