phile under: theater

Review: An Iliad

Joseph Graves plays a sure-footed actor’s actor.

By Anne Adams November 5, 2010

"Thesp-o-vision." "Actor-ific." These are the kinds of words I’ve been workshopping to describe An Iliad, which is classic not only in the Greco sense, but in its rigor of theatrical craft.

Originally, Culturephile dispatched our most aptly named associate, Alexis *, to cover PCS’s An Iliad, but about a half-hour into that production, lone actor Joseph Graves suddenly paused and broke character: "I’m sorry—I can’t continue; I’ve injured my ankle," he announced. And, like the mighty Achilles, he limped from the battlefield. By last Sunday Graves had evidently fully recovered, and loped through an uncompromisingly epic performance.

Now, in case you slept through Western Civ class, The Iliad is Homer’s detailed account of a few weeks of the ten-year Trojan War. And An Iliad, extrapolated from that theme, casts Homer in the role of a timeless, drunken, disenfranchised war veteran, recounting that war’s more intense events, then lapsing into a more universal lamentation about all wars’ bloodshed and depravity. In one dramatic peak, while describing the actions of Hector in battle, Homer flies into vicarious rage. "Blood, blood, blood, and it feels good!" he screams, smashing a chair. Catching his breath, he concedes, "And Hector was a good guy. But that’s how it happens…."

The other heart-and-clock-stopper comes later on, when a broken Homer slumps down and begins to recite an exhaustive list of the world’s wars in chronological order. This takes forEVER. If there are too many wars in post-Trojan history to even comfortably name, then how much death? How much pain? The list finally catches up to the present ("Iraq, Afghanistan, Iraq…") before grinding to a hopeless halt. Point taken.

This piece, from start to finish, is presented in state-of-the-art "thesp-o-vision." In Greek culture, it was once apparently "the sign of a man of standing to be able to recite the Iliad and Odyssey by heart," and Joseph Graves indeed performs the recitation like a man of standing. Despite his chicanery with dirty clothes and liquor bottles, he still comes off as a Master Actor—more Superman, than Everyman. From his booming voice and crisp diction, to his suspiciously steely pecs, he is either Superbum, the most handsome and eloquent bum in the universe—or he is one Royal Shakespeare Company role shy of knighthood, a la sirs Hopkins, Olivier, and Kingsley.

Thing is, I don’t think you’d want it any other way. Two hours of one bum rhapsodizing realistically, would be all but insufferable, and would surely fail to build to the same crescendos of universal meaning. To perform that feat, you need a guy whose ankle can heal in a day.

Namesake of the daughter of Poseidon.

An Iliad continues through November 21. For more upcoming events, visit the

/">Arts & Entertainment Calendar anytime!

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