AN ILIAD: A Successful Collaboration With Court Theatre and the Oriental Institute

ms3p5arcfjdnnlbdjvbraepyeiMarking his 25th anniversary as Artistic Director, Charles Newell, and Oriental Institue (IO) brings an astonishing site-specific platform that will thrill the historian in us all. An Iliad is an adaptation by Lisa Peterson and Denis O’Hare, based on The Iliad, translated by Robert Fagles.

This reenactment of Homer’s Trojan War crafted around stories of Achilles and Hector is a gripping monologue vividly told through a combination of unusual artifacts and amazing acting that poetically captures the violence of humanity.

The journey starts as the audience is ushered into a dark room where you hear the groaning of a man filled with anguish. He laments about a time when men and the gods of men delighted themselves in the battles of war. We travel back to a time when men dare to fight against the benevolence and favor of the gods. Hector, champion of the Trojans and the son of Priam, was under siege from Achilles, the Greek’s best warrior and most heroic, who is enraged after Agamemnon has stolen his war prize, Briseis.

The enraptured night circled us around two massive edifices etched with human-headed winged bull guards as we entered a simulated Sargon’s throneroom. Khorsabad Lamassu, the deity of protection, is centered stage, with a bull’s body, eagle wings, and a human head. Here we meet a man named “The Poet” who begins to share the story of legendary author Homer’s The Iliad, an epic tale of the ten-year siege of the city of Troy.timothy-edward-kane-in-an-iliad-at-the-oriental-institute-liz-lauren-photo-4OI’s goal to engage the audience to experience the many monuments and curated displays within the gallery while forwarding the play’s storytelling was an exceptional idea.

As The Poet, tantalizes your ears with the stories of war, the audience is whisked into another portion of the museum, to gaze upon artifacts of the Assyrian Emperor, the Amuq Sequence, hieroglyphics, and mummified tombs. Then as you stroll and stare in amazement at the many stunning exhibits, you proceed into another room where a massive Trojan horse head brings you into the storytelling climax of an epic night of history.

Timothy Edward Kane, as The Poet, is mind-boggling in his storytelling of this mythological narrative of An Iliad’s battle of Achilles and Hector. Kane is one of Chicago’s best actors, and his breathtaking performance as The Poet proves why he is consistently one of our favorite actors. Kane brilliantly brings you into this adaption by Lisa Peterson and Denis O’Hare, by illuminating the lives of these characters. Kane contorts his mind, body, and soul into each character and is so mesmerizing that you feel like somehow he was actually there as he shares this story of life and death. It’s like stepping back into time as you walk the halls of history, seeing the historical antiquities.

One sequence of dialogues that will strike you to the chord is when Kane, The Poet, recites with vigor all of the wars throughout human history.

As you walk through the walls of OI, flashes of history breathe through your body as you witness a time when the ashes of humanity once lived. You see relics from 10,000 BC (Neolithic Period) to 2400 AD (Islamic Period). OI even has a fragment papyrus of the Book II of Homer’s Iliad. You gasp at a body, tombed with canopic jars that were used during the mummification process to store and preserve the viscera of their owner for the afterlife. There were typically four canopic jars in a tomb, for the safekeeping of particular human organs: the stomach, intestines, lungs, and liver. OI also has a mummified tomb breached to where you could see into the coffin.timothy-edward-kane-in-an-iliad-at-the-oriental-institute-liz-lauren-photo-2Oriental Institute, who mentions its apprehension of performing a site-specific of An Iliad, made a gutsy decision, and it paid off. This adventure illustrates that rich cultural history and the complexity of adding a theatrical masterpiece together can be accomplished. Oriental Institute, Court Theatre, and Charles Newell made this performance of An Iliad hard to top.

Congratulations to Artistic Director Charles Newell, on the 25th anniversary of bringing amazing performances to Court Theatre and Oriental Institute for a superb collaboration of theater and history in a site-specific platform that is sure to bring chills to the historian that resides on all humanity. Thank you for an epoch night of historical theater.

Let’s Play Highly Recommends this limited run of An Iliad. Hopefully, this will change to extended.

Court Theatre and the Oriental Institute Presents
An Iliad
By Lisa Peterson and Denis O’Hare
Based on Homer’s The Iliad, Translated by Robert Fagles
Directed by Charles Newell
February 26, 2020 – March 29, 2020


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