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« Cannes Monologue: Secrets and Lies | Main | Earth Girls Are Linky »
Monday
May122014

Stage Door: An Iliad and (gulp) Troy's 10th Anniversary 

If you'll allow me a personal and quite biased recommendation, I'd love to send any Floridians reading to the Orlando Fringe Festival (May 14th-25th) to check out Allen Sermonia or Jenn Remke in An Iliad. Jenn and Allen are friends of mine and I had the privilege of attending a full rehearsal last week in which Jenn performed the entire show (they're doing it in repertory so Allen gets alternating nights) and apparently she's the first female actor to ever perform it!

I've seen Jenn in a few previous plays so I knew she was talented but holding an entire stage by yourself is a true challenge and I'm happy to report she was riveting. By the time the play sunk its hooks in, I forgot I was watching my friend and was just watching "the poet" working her way through numerous character sketches and a retelling of the specifics of the Trojan War and, by troubling extension, the not-so-specific universality of war.

Even those who don't get a decent education in the classics (in this case Homer's "The Iliad") know the story thanks to the way all hugely influential classics seep into the collective subconscious. I've read the Iliad but I'm embarrassed to report that instead of the poem my brain was doing a major Troy (2004) sidebar afterwards comparing the play's potent intimacy with the movie's B grade epicness.

It's not that I wanted to think about Troy...

BrothersCousins, eh?

It's just that I am me and Eric Bana and Brad Pitt and Orlando Bloom and Diane Kruger (all looking beautiful enough to launch thousands of ships to possess) are a kind of draw, no matter how bad the surrounding movie is and however embarrassing that is to admit.

In a stupid coincidence Troy is celebrating its 10th anniversary just as this performance kicks off. And I am helpless in the face of such calendar markers. I haven't had a desire to revisit the movie but aside from the beauty of its players I remember being  convinced that Orlando Bloom, despite the terrible reviews he won, was actually perfect as Paris. It's just that the character is detestable and not in the type of way that often provokes rabid anti-hero worship. Bana also did fine and hugely charismatic work (I expected him to become a much bigger star but it was sadly not to be) but Garrett Hedlund and Brad Pitt were weirdly weak links despite being well cast. Maybe they didn't have enough to play with as actors? Mostly I did not appreciate the weirdly deflating rewrite of the Achilles/Patroclus relationship: 'They're just cousins, broseph; No Homo!'

If you've only ever seen Troy and no other dramatic interpretations of this story, I must suggest this BAFTA Nominated short film Achilles (1995), narrated by Derek Jacobi, from the Oscar nominated filmmaker Barry Purves which restores the gayness in gorgeous NSFW stop-motion:

 

Back to the play
Because my attention to the theater world is intermittent at best I had missed the explosion of interest in "An Iliad" over the last couple of years. Denis O'Hare, the ubiquitous character actor of stage, film and recently television (American Horror Story/True Blood) co-wrote it and performed it in repetory with Stephen Spinella (the Tony winning original star of Angels in America) in 2012 and it has since become a fixture in regional theater partially because it's cheap and easy to produce (no set / one actor), sure, but also because it's just a damn good play: moving, provocative, and angry.

Even if you're not in Florida, see it as soon as some regional theater tackles it near you.

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Reader Comments (13)

Poor TROY. I hesitate to say I greatly like it, but I find it to be such a fascinating failure more than an abject waste of film. It's take on the myth is so unusual but I appreciate it more than I dislike it.

And, I like Bloom, too, although for different reasons apparently. (I think he makes Paris work better as a fallible human than the icy mythic memory of him.) What an unusual 03/04 - we had the HELEN OF TROY miniseries then this, presumably part of the after effects of GLADIATOR in 2000?

(Of course the part I remember most is the brief bit from Julie Christie, in that beach scene . Actressexual for life.)

May 12, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew K.

Bana was the MVP of that movie. Never more sympathetic, hugely convincing as a steady and nobly self-denying leader. And dat hair, mmhmm. I was a teen when this came out, and you can imagine the effect his character had on me. GOD, THE HEARTBREAK.

May 12, 2014 | Unregistered Commentercaroline

I'll be performing in the San Diego Fringe Festival. I'm psyched that there are still enough people in the country who are avid theater-goers. Thanks for supporting theater, Nathaniel!

May 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBVR

No need to be sad about Eric Bana, he's done quite alright for himself in the last ten years. :)

May 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMB76

I always thought that Troy would've been better served if it hadn't removed all the mythical elements or at least referenced the role of the Gods more. I don't think we necessarily needed scenes up on Mt. Olympus or anything, but it would've added something to make it feel like more than just a rip-off of Gladiator and (an even worse sin) dreadfully boring.

May 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterVal

I saw "An Illiad" earlier this year at Milwaukee Rep starring Jim DeVita, a Wisconsin favorite, and it was probably the most moving theatrical experience I've had. And I see A LOT of theatre.

May 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAlex

Ah TROY. Fond memories. At the time, I went with 2 friends. One was obsessed with Bana and the other with Pitt and I was, of course, obsessed with Bloom. So you could probably guess our reactions to the film (and its existence).

May 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRyan T.

"I remember being convinced that Orlando Bloom, despite the terrible reviews he won, was actually perfect as Paris."

YES. THIS.

I thought - as you & others are saying - that the film makers played far too fast & loose with the original story, relationships, removal of the gods, pathetic relationship of Achilles and Patroclus (who wasn't nearly that wet), etc.. Yes, it was VERY pretty to look at - even BP, who normally doesn't do it for me - and Eric Bana was the best thing in it. Sean Bean (Odysseus) wasn't bad, and whoever played Agammemnon was creditable. Brian Cox? Love Peter O'Toole, but as Priam he was a bit meh. Helen's always annoyed me as a character, so Diane Kruger was OK. Hector's wife's name escapes me, but for once even Saffron Burrows was pretty good. So it wasn't the casting that made it a major disappointment (and god knows I was ready to pull them apart) but the storyline, and the direction.

However, Orlando Bloom was definitely almost as good as Bana, and had Paris nailed to a T. I've never much liked Bloom as an actor, but he was bang on in this.

May 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterEBGB

I liked this one a lot more than I had expected to at the time. Bana was terrific--real star power and the most effective characterization in the movie. Pitt was pretty much Pitt. But I thought the director walked a fine line between hokey and pseudo-serious. And seeing Julie's cameo was definitely the highlight. Sigh.

May 13, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

I was thinking of watching the film at some point, as I love Greek mythology. But then I saw the end of the film on television and Briseis stabbed Agamemnon to death and I decided not to bother, because it sort of offended me.

I know that the filmmakers may have killed him off because they needed to show some sort of comeuppance for his bad deeds. But with his death, they completely negated the Oresteia, one of the greatest works of literature ever written.

May 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRobMiles

Who directed Troy? I just remember it as super boring and inert. I loved Eric Bana's, er, well, chest and biceps (and I too expected him to have a more Russell Crowe type career), and I guess the costumes and scenery, but that's pretty sad when you're supposed to be watching a full blooded sword and sandal "spectacular!"

PS Orlando Bloom has anti-charisma to me. He actually sucks other people's charisma out of the movie. Same problem as Richard Gere

Wasn't it Brad who had a butt scene in this? I remember going through puberty in the space of that second.

May 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBD

Bana gave the best performance as Hector- Pitt was more beautiful than Helen.

May 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJaragon

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