Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Heroes for all ages

On a day filled with human concerns both large and small - I learned of the deaths of two friends, got stung by a wasp and fell on the sidewalk, turning my ankle - I entered the realms of gods and heroes via a dramatic reading of the Greek epic The Iliad at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine.

Broadway actor Anthony Newfield, who edited the selections for the evening using a new translation by Stephen Mitchell, is artistic director of Poetry for Peace, which presents readings of great works that deal with war and peace.

The cast of The Iliad, presented at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, New York. Anthony Newfield is at the far left.
The work was punctuated by percussion and incidental music from Marlon Cherry, whose vigorous bass drumming created an appropriately war-like milieu.

It's a daunting work - some 15,000 lines in all (edited into a two-hour performance), dozens of warriors, gods and goddesses, even rivers and horses and mountains figure in the awesome story of the war between the Greeks and the Trojans.  

The impressive cast, including Theatre Hall of Fame member Dana Ivey as Hera and Hecuba, admirably negotiated Homer's poetry. Bryce Pinkham, late of the cast of Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, crafted a particularly intense Achilles. And what a story: the Greek leaders Achilles and Agamemnon arguing over going to war; the Trojan Paris stealing Helen, wife of the Greek Menelaus; the Trojan Hector slain by Achilles and dragged behind his chariot; Hector's father Priam sitting down to dinner with his son's killer to ask for the body. And the gods, above it all yet intervening in human affairs and pursuing their own amorous paths.

The cathedral's magnificent grey and beige stone was a dignified setting for such a tale, one that sent us out into the unusually warm fall night with swords ringing in our ears and the cries of titans. 

No comments:

Post a Comment