“An Iliad”epically wows

By: Grant Vance ~Staff Writer~

Kicking off the second act of Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati’s 2014-15 season is the masterfully executed “An Iliad,” which regionally premiered Oct. 14.

“An Iliad,” adapted from Homer’s epic poem, is a one-man show recounting the events of the Trojan War by using it as a parallel to the hardships and suffering of war in a modern setting. The show plays out as a highlight reel of the epic, told by the weary, aged Poet: a man cursed by the muses to tell this sorrowful tale time and time again.

The play’s ability to nuance the arbitrary and petty nature of war throughout time is haunting, skillfully using its subject matter to put the evil at the heart of war into a telling perspective. By using such a famous poem as Homer’s “The Iliad” for context, writers of the play Lisa Peterson and Denis O’Hare expertly craft a tale of woe with an impactful message. Performing the role of The Poet is a true thespian of Cincinnati fame Bruce Cromer, a seasoned actor who lights up the stage with his impressive range of raw emotion.

To put it simply, Cromer is incredible. Cromer creates a character with layers of relatability by expertly weaving his eccentric humor and extreme woe toward the nature of war. Empathizing
with Cromer’s Poet is not difficult. His performance is both intensely frustrating, yet rewarding
in the midst of a world obsessed with romanticizing violence and neglecting to acknowledge the ripples of harm it is responsible for.

Cromer brings to the show much of its unique style in exploitative story-telling, but not without the help of a simple set and an impressive use of technical showmanship. Director Michael Haney’s sound and lighting throughout “An Iliad” give important weight to Cromer’s words through their carefully chosen execution.

“An Iliad” is an all-around great piece of theater, skillfully integrating Homer’s great epic into the nuanced voice of Cromer’s Poet, delivering an important message on the state of war in modern society.

Highly recommended and thrilling, “An Iliad” runs at Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati through Nov. 2.

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