When I heard that ‘An Iliad was going to be performed at the Ensemble Theater, I was thrilled, knowing that my freshman son was going to have to read it for his literature class next year. He, being a sports-minded 14 year-old who doesn’t generally enjoy his assigned literature material, was not so enthusiastic. When I told him that I had been offered media tickets to attend the show, he was hoping I would invite someone, anyone, besides him. With the promise of an ice cream treat after the show, I dragged him downtown as my date for the evening. I tried to explain to him that plays aren’t generally written to be boring, and assured him it would be worth his time. I was quite relieved when, at the end of the show, he agreed that he was glad he came and that he actually enjoyed it!
The entire play is performed by one actor, “The Poet”, who is on stage for the entire 100 minute show with no intermission. The Poet is performed by Bruce Cromer who you may have seen playing Ebenezer Scrooge at Playhouse in the Park’s version of A Christmas Carol. As The Poet, he tells the story of the Iliad to the audience. Thankfully, the 15,693 line poem is condensed into a more manageable story. It’s the story of the Trojan War, but most importantly, the people, the soldiers, the wives left behind, and the children of the war. Its told in an up-to-date way, making the audience feel like it didn’t take place 3000 years ago. It has a contemporary feel, while still sharing the original story. The director, Michael Evan Haney, states in the playbill that “This is an Iliad for the 21st Century.”
I had heard the show was PG13, and I would agree with that rating. The show deals with the horrors of war, has some intense moments and also has some explanations of death and the horrific battles in the war. You will hear some strong language (the F word is used four times.) I was personally glad I left my 11 year old daughter at home, I think it might have been too much for her, but my 14 year old son was quite capable of handling it.
The show was explained to me as having an anti-war theme, which it does, but only in the idea that war does horrible things to humanity. Children lose fathers, wives lose husbands, friends lose friends. It does not make a political anti-war statement. It was all a very human view of the horrors of war.
Bruce Cromer’s acting alone was reason enough to see the show. It seemed that he put enough physical effort and emotion into the show that he probably could have run a half-marathon and exerted the same amount of effort. He climbed ladders, jumped onto tables and truly had a command of the stage and the character. He filled the show with rage, passion and amazing characterizations. He could become the wife of a warrior lovingly holding a baby one second, and the brave warrior saying goodbye to her the next second. The amount of skill, endurance, emotion, and even memorization was absolutely phenomenal. At one point in the show he brilliantly listed every war and invasion through the course of history. I am still in awe at how anyone could remember every one of them. Hearing the list seemed to convey the idea that there have been too many wars, as a part of our history the wars have destroyed families and lives. Watching Mr. Cromer perform a show like this with no intermission was pretty amazing to witness.
We were very impressed with ‘An Iliad’. I do think it will help my son when he has to read the story next year for Literature. I can’t promise it will make him enjoy the story anymore, but I hope it will help him understand the ideas behind the story and the meaning of the tale. I would recommend that this is a great show to see with your teens or as a date night. It runs through November 2, 2014, so hurry down to the Ensemble Theater and see this show. Go to www.ensemblecincinnati.org for more information or to purchase tickets. Tickets are $18-$44.
And remember if you are looking for more unique things to do in and around Cincinnati, be sure to check out the new Second Edition of our book, Adventures Around Cincinnati, containing over 120 kid-tested places to visit within two hours of downtown.