"War is hell". If there was any doubt of that statement, all one has to do is ask 'The Poet' who has the daunting task of recounting the tale of Troy in Court Theatre's phenomenal "An Iliad". Lisa Peterson and Denis O'Hare has reshaped Homer's epic 24 book poem, which chronicles the battle of Achilles and Hector, into a 95 minute gripping morality play. Under the tutelage of Timothy Edward Kane, who is utterly transfixing in this role, we are left with the daunting fact that man's ego is always at the center of war. As Kane weaves his tale between these two great warriors whose destinies seem predetermined, he also comments on how we seem to have a predisposition to rage, and in the uncontrolled state (or State) can lead a society to ruin.
What is even more renascent than the story is the performance on Mr. Kane who commands our attention at every turn. Director Charles Newell, who has a vast history with Mr. Kane, certainly knows how to pull out the most from one of Chicago's finest actors. Mr. Kane gives the audience the most visual telling of the Trojan War in the most minimalist of spaces. Todd Rosenthal phenominal set is as intricate as it is vast and barron being masterfully lit by Keith Parham. As 'The Poet', Mr. Kane gets to disconnect and reconnect with reality at various point during the production. His eyes flutter, his chest widens and his voice fills with rage.......then silence. There seems to be an ongoing war in The Poet's head which at times, like Hector and Achilles, is uncontrolled. What the audience is witnessing is an actor at the top of his craft with a lesson plan that makes us think about the consequences of our actions. This production should be required watching for everyone of our political leaders who has their finger on the button. On the other hand, their ego may just be to hardened to understand what The Poet knows to be the truth of the human condition. Court Theatre gives us a production that makes us think on how we can all be a better society. Now that is a rare holiday gift.
"An Iliad" runs through December 11 at Court Theatre, 5535 S. Ellis, Chicago. Performances are Thursdays at 7:30, Fridays at 8pm, Saturdays at 3pm and 8pm, Sundays at 2:30pm and 7:30pm. Tickets are $40-$60, and are available by phone (773-753-4472) or visit www.courttheatre.org