by Roger Martin
Hey boys and girls, moms and dads! Anyone want to be an actor? Lead a life of riches, glamor and excitement? Great, then scoot right on up to Boca Raton and watch Avi Hoffman in An Iliad. Ninety minutes in Outré Theatre with Avi and you’ll learn it all. Fame awaits.
It’s a one man show, An Iliad, and a terrific show it is. Avi Hoffman is Homer, regaling the audience with this updated version of the classic tale of the siege of Troy. And of course you all remember how that went, Paris stealing Helen from the King of Sparta, thoroughly ticking off the Greeks who then spent ten years trying to get her back. Hero versus Hero, God versus God. Cue the carnage.
So in this updated version by Denis O’Hare and Lisa Peterson, Hoffman is dressed and booted in quasi battle fatigues, unshaven and exhausted, becoming the heroes, telling their tales, strutting the stage, killing and lamenting.
This is a timeless piece, performed 3000 years ago and, in this version, still very much alive, vibrant and utterly intriguing. As Hoffman speaks, voice overs and sound fx delineate the battles old and new and videos flash upstage but nothing detracts from Hoffman’s performance. It’s a rare actor who can enthrall an audience with tales of endless violence and the utter stupidity of war, but Hoffman does this, not with ease but with his belief in himself and the characters into whom he disappears. Hoffman drags us onto the blood stained beaches and before the battlements of ancient Troy and we are there, completely, as Achilles destroys Hector and the gods weave their petty plots. An acting lesson, indeed.
The set by Sean McClelland is a red stained multi-level rendering of the detritus of war, the battlefield and the battlement. It’s well done and effective but seems almost too large for the performance. It reaches far upstage and when Hoffman is up there he is far from the audience. Six inch risers rather than eight inch hinder the sight lines. This is not the fault of Outré but rather that of the theatre designers. So be warned, when you go to see An Iliad, and you most certainly should, go for the front few rows.
Hoffman is excellent from any seat in the house but if you’re close to him you can see the subtleties, the glint of an eye, the lapse of a lip, his true sense of being, that contribute so much to his performance.
Well and imaginatively directed by Skye Whitcomb, An Iliad is a piece that requires attention but offers myriad rewards. It’s a brave choice for a relatively new theatre, the artistic over the commercial, and it’s a choice to be applauded. Well done, Avi Hoffman and Outré Theatre.
The rest of the production team: sound designer Danny Butler, lighting designer Stefanie Howard and assistant director/stage manager Sabrina Lynn Gore.