On Stage

An Iliad

When war is not the answer

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Thanks to the machinations of a president who believes Nazis have a place in modern-day America and throws out threats of nuclear war as if he’s emceeing a take-no-prisoners boxing match, my emotional state was already precarious when I took my seat for a viewing of iDiOM Theater’s An Iliad last Thursday night at the Sylvia Center for the Arts.

“The world feels so fragile right now,” I wrote in my notebook as I waited for my date to arrive. “I hope this play doesn’t make me cry.”

I’m not sure if that missive was a self-fulfilling prophesy or if I was already on the verge of tears due to the aforementioned atrocities—not to mention that I had earlier that day learned a childhood friend was fighting a personal battle with terminal cancer—but I was in the exact right frame of mind to be deeply affected by the many lessons contained in the contemporary adaptation of Homer’s The Iliad.

In fact, by the time narrator Glenn Hergenhahn-Zhao came to the end of attempting to explain the horrors he’d seen on the battlefields of Troy, I’d leaked so much saltwater from my eyes that I could tell my date was getting concerned.

In Lisa Peterson’s and Denis O’Hare’s adaptation of the ancient Greek epic, the reminder of war’s human cost—not the celebration of it—takes center stage. And as the poet scarred to the core by the blood that has been shed and the lives and cities that have been lost, Hergenhahn-Zhao is a force to be reckoned with.

From the opening lines—“Every time I sing this song, I hope it’s the last time”—to a scene where the storyteller embodies the bloodlust of battle, to a heartbreaking litany of ancient and modern wars that have been fought over the centuries, the adroit actor seemed to own the role with every ounce of his being.

Through the magic of his delivery, I saw Troy go from an idyllic city to a hellhole. I also envisioned tricky gods, a battle to the death between the warriors Achilles and Hector, grieving widows, and deadly prophecies come to fruition.

“I don’t want to tell you what happens next,” the narrator intones near the end of the play, when the world’s seemingly never-ending addiction to warfare is fully exposed.

But grudgingly, and with the pain of centuries in his eyes, he does. And it is almost too much for him—and for us.

But if you see An Iliad, this is precisely the point where you should watch closely. For without realizing the extent of war’s reach, humankind is destined to repeat history’s mistakes. Even if it makes you sob, don’t look away.

More On Stage...
Forever Plaid
Adoration and the afterlife

James Dean died in a tragic automobile accident in 1955, but the actor has never been forgotten. The same goes for actresses Grace Kelly and Jayne Mansfield—both of whom were in deadly car wrecks when they were at the either at the height of their fame, or were so well-known their names…

more »
The Pig War
Mannequins on the move

Playwright Steve Lyons understands full well that war is not a laughing matter.

That said, when he set out to write Mrs. Bave Presents the Pig War, he soon realized that the chain of events that nearly led to a violent border dispute—but instead saw diplomacy and peace reign…

more »
Improv Insights
Finding the momentum

Oona Cava is the type of person you’d want to have on hand at the scene of an accident.

That’s because in addition to being wicked smart, the longtime improviser and instructor is calm in a crisis, a quick thinker and nimble in both spirit and form. (As a fellow Upfront Theatre alum, I…

more »
Eat Local Month

10:00am|Whatcom County

Bard on the Beach

12:00pm|Vanier Park

Boating Center Open

12:00pm|Community Boating Center

Dog Day Afternoon

3:30pm|South Whatcom Library

All-Paces Run

6:00pm|Fairhaven Runners

Try Something New

6:30pm|Mount Vernon City Library

Back to School Night

6:30pm|Lynden Library

Books on Tap

7:00pm|North Fork Brewery

Skagit Folk Dancers

7:00pm|Bayview Civic Hall

Comedy Open Mic


Salsa Night

9:30pm|Cafe Rumba

Cascadia Weekly Subscribe Ad 1
Eat Local Month

10:00am|Whatcom County

Bard on the Beach

12:00pm|Vanier Park

Boating Center Open

12:00pm|Community Boating Center

Sedro-Woolley Farmers Market

3:00pm|Hammer Heritage Square

Peaceful Poetry Workshop and Contest

4:30pm|Village Books

Women's Rock Climbing Basics


Exploring Vegan Flavors

6:30pm|Whatcom Humane Society

Creekside Open Mic

6:30pm|South Whatcom Library

Autumn Soups for the Body and Soul

6:30pm|Community Food Co-op

Seattle Quartet

7:00pm|Sylvia Center for the Arts

Village Books Cascadia Weekly Subscribe Ad 1
Eat Local Month

10:00am|Whatcom County

Lynden Farmers Market

12:00pm|Front Street

Boating Center Open

12:00pm|Community Boating Center

Together for Peace


Stream Tour

6:00pm|Whatcom Creek

Trash Talk

6:30pm|Community Food Co-op

Balkan Folk Dance

7:00pm|Fairhaven Library

Chuckanut Radio Hour with Nancy Pearl

7:00pm|Village Books

Travel Talk

7:00pm|Whatcom Museum's Old City Hall

The Addams Family Musical

7:30pm|Claire vg Thomas Theatre

Authentic Illusionist Jay Ownehouse

7:30pm|Mount Baker Theatre

see our complete calendar »

MBT Janis Joplin Cascadia Weekly Subscribe Ad 1 Village Books Bellingham Farmer’s Market BOB_2017 Trove 2020 Solutions Sept 2017