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...
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.