I mentioned that we saw a production of Lisa Peterson an Denis O’Hare’s An Iliad this past weekend. It is a retelling of the epic Homer tale narrated by a single storyteller that also draws on events through the ages.
The play was fabulously performed, and I can’t imagine the energy it took for the single performer to so passionately tell his tale for an hour and forty minutes. I was captivated from beginning to end, as was the rest of the audience. I was telling someone about it last night and thought to share it here (especially for those in the area who might have time to catch a performance of it before the Winona festival ends).
At the opening of the play, the narrator sadly comments, “Every time I sing this song, I hope it’s the last time.” For me the most chilling part of the play is the one that suggests that hope will not easily be realized. The narrator is trying to remember something that occurred during a particular conquest, but corrects himself, remembering it was not that conquest at all, but a different one, a failed recollection that leads to an almost three minute narration of wars through the ages. I almost couldn’t breathe as the recitation went on and on.
Here is the scene, although from a different performance than the one I saw:
There is a similar, although shorter scene at the end. The play ends before the actual fall of Troy. The narrator casually observes that we all know that story. We’ve heard it before. The fall of Troy. The sack of Constantinople. Of the Aztec empire. The destruction of Dresden. Of Sarajevo. Of Aleppo.
Do we just accept that that these lists will go on and on? That if this play is performed in another 10 or 15 years the recitation of wars will grow to four or five minutes rather than just over three?
Shouldn’t we hope for something better? Shouldn’t we commit ourselves to trying to do better?