Letter writer: Great theater awaits with An Iliad

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Graphic by Lori Deaton

This is to alert your readers to a performance far above what is commonly available. The N.C. Stage Company is putting on An Iliad through April 19.

One actor, a very skilled Willie Repoley, dressed as a scruffy veteran who drinks steadily, carries a 90-minute retelling of The Iliad. He begins with the famous opening, in Homeric, “Of the wrath of Pelius’ son ….” and in English then recites several major scenes from the epic, including Agamemnon’s refusal to give up his trophy captive and Achilles’ confrontation with him, Hector’s farewell to Andromache and Astanax, Patrocles’ battle and death, the killing of Hector by Achilles, Priam’s begging the corpse of Hector: All are vividly described with sheer words only, no technical tricks or sexy lighting and only a few chords from an old piano for accompaniment.

At intervals Repoley refers to parallels, ancient and modern. The narrator conveys the horror and madness of the Trojan War, of all wars, and at the same time he gives us glimpses of how the glorious warrior ideal can seize men and carry them away raging.

Before the performance, there’s a bonus when no salesman comes onstage to give an airline-stewardess speech welcoming the audience aboard, hawking future shows and exhorting us to applaud the corporate sponsors. Whew!

— Stephen Weissman
Asheville

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