Sunday, April 7, 2013

Outré Theatre Company: An Iliad (4 reviews)

The Outré Theatre Company opened its production of An Iliad at The Black Box Studio at Mizner Park Cultural Arts Center on April 5, 2013.
Outré Theatre Company is proud to announce its sophomore production, Denis O’Hare and Lisa Peterson’s Obie Award-winning one-man show An Iliad, starring Avi Hoffman. Returning Homer’s classic to where it originated – the words of the Poet, speaking directly to an audience – An Iliad brings alive the struggle between Achilles and Hector, the battle and fall of Troy, and the beautiful woman who caused it all.
Skye Whitcomb directed Avi Hoffman in this one-man production, with assistance from Sabrina Lynn Gore.

Hap Erstein weighed in for Palm Beach ArtsPaper:
As staged by Outré’s artistic director Skye Whitcomb, An Iliad is anything but a static exercise. Hoffman wanders the stage, up, over and around Sean McClelland’s cluttered, war-torn ramparts set. At 100 intermission-less minutes, the play is a physical workout for the actor as well as a verbal one, including a sequence in which he sprints laps around the treacherously tiered environment. 
The matinee I was at was very sparsely attended. Hoffman still gave a performance of impressive ferocity...
Outré and Hoffman both demonstrated what they are capable of. Those who miss it do so at their own peril. They would be missing a worthy new work, a new theater company deserving of attention and what will probably be one of the standout performances of the year.

Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
Based on a translation by Robert Fagles, adapted by director Lisa Peterson and actor Denis O’Hare, An Iliad is a show that requires heroic effort and great versatility from its lone performer.
Avi Hoffman... gets the starring role in Outré’s An Iliad. The actor, who also has a recurring part on the Starz T.V. series Magic City as lawyer Sid Raskin, works hard under the guidance of Outré artistic director Skye Whitcomb to create the kind of richly textured performance necessary to keep an audience captivated throughout this dramatic meditation on the cost of war.

At times, Hoffman is quite engaging, even compelling during the play’s more intense or horrific moments. But his amiable persona and the way he works an audience sometimes blunt the force and dramatic potential of An Iliad. The way he evokes Achilles’ horse Xanthos, for example, is more Mr. Ed than Iliad. In other words, he’s playing a role that isn’t an entirely comfortable fit.
Slides projected periodically on the set’s back wall underscore the elegance of Troy before its destruction by the Greeks and, far more meaningfully, the predictable costs when nations resort to savage combat. Those images and the text point out that, though the way we fight has changed from Homer’s era to today, war’s tragic human toll is a constant.
John Thomas reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
...a breathtaking solo show from Boca Raton’s Outre Theatre Company that exhumes Homer’s dramatization of the mythological Trojan War in terms we all can understand. There is colloquial language, modern-day references, video projection and audience interaction – even, occasionally, humor.
Adopting a dozen or so voices – for Achilles, Hector, Agamemnon, Hermes, Patroclus, et al, as well his own, objective narrator – Hoffman elucidates Homer’s epic for us in propless but vivid details: a graphic novel come to life in our imagination, a Cliff’s Notes Iliad complete with analysis of the text. Part enthusiastic schoolteacher, part desperate messenger of mythological mayhem in a world overrun by real war, Hoffman’s performance oscillates between complete command of his historical subject and anguished aphasia, often breaking down from the sheer intensity of the harrowing scenes.
No solo show could rightfully be called “easy,” but this play is in another league, an impossibly demanding exercise in memorization and endurance, directed imaginatively by Skye Whitcomb. In a calorie-burning performance, Hoffman runs Sisyphean circles around the stage, bounds steps, balances on planks of wood, dodges invisible spears, pounces on his victims like a feral animal, and dies a couple of times. In the process, he runs an emotional gamut, exuding the joy of victory, the absurdity of war, the rage of revenge and the bloodshed of its result.
Hoffman’s work here is, in a word, flawless – the best I’ve seen him in my eight years as a theater critic.
If, like me, you were disappointed in Outre’s initial offering, The Wild Party, last fall, don’t miss this one; it marks this company’s emergence as a major player in the South Florida theater community.
Roger Martin reviewed for miamiartzine:
Hey boys and girls, moms and dads! Anyone want to be an actor? Lead a life of riches, glamor and excitement? Great, then scoot right on up to Boca Raton and watch Avi Hoffman in An Iliad. Ninety minutes in Outré Theatre with Avi and you'll learn it all.
This is a timeless piece, performed 3000 years ago and, in this version, still very much alive, vibrant and utterly intriguing. As Hoffman speaks, voice overs and sound fx delineate the battles old and new and videos flash upstage but nothing detracts from Hoffman's performance. It's a rare actor who can enthrall an audience with tales of endless violence and the utter stupidity of war, but Hoffman does this, not with ease but with his belief in himself and the characters into whom he disappears.
Well and imaginatively directed by Sky Whitcomb, An Iliad is a piece that requires attention but offers myriad rewards. It's a brave choice for a relatively new theatre, the artistic over the commercial, and it's a choice to be applauded. Well done, Avi Hoffman and Outré Theatre.
Outré Theatre Company presents An Iliad at The Black Box Studio at Mizner Park Cultural Arts Center through April 21, 2013.

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