Actor Henry Woronicz embarks on a lofty odyssey of the imagination in An Iliad at La Jolla Playhouse

By Diana Saenger
Let’s Review!
Henry Woronicz’s portrayal of The Poet in “An Iliad,” provides La Jolla Playhouse audiences with one of the most profound performances staged there to date. The subject of his tour-de-force piece is the ancient Greek historian Homer’s epic poem about the Trojan War that contains 15,000 lines.

CUTLINE 1: The Poet (Henry Woronicz) and his muse, The Musician (Brian Ellingsen), retell Homer’s poem in ‘An Iliad.’ Keven Berne

Like its delivery in 8th century B.C.  Greece, Woronicz takes on the role of a singer who passionately “inhabits” many of the war’s characters to tell the multitudes — in this case, the audience — of its atrocities. Through anger, pain, curiosity, gentleness and earnest desire to educate, Woronicz is prone to laughter or tears in describing the events. Interspersed between his recountings of the Trojan War are references to the many wars the world has known.

At one point, Woronicz falls breathlessly into a chair and with machine gun-like delivery, recites the names of 144 wars on Earth by their timeline. It’s a mind-blowing moment revealing the depth and ingenuity in this adaptation by Denis O’Hare and Lisa Peterson of Robert Fagles’ translation of “An Iliad.”

With just a minimal set, Woronicz manages to create images in the minds of the audience that transport them back as bystanders to witness the Trojan War in every minute detail. He also imparts snippets of actions and innuendos of the horror of recent wars, as well.

The spellbound audience sees The Poet inhabit the anger of Achilles as he plans his attack on Hector, or as Hector, who is obsessed with defending his home of Troy. Woronicz could be Hector’s father begging Achilles for his dead son’s body, or one of the gods — Zeus … Athena. He’s the observer standing on the beach vividly describing the thousands of ships with thousands of Achaean men ready to lead the charge against Troy.

During his many rantings, The Poet often begs for his muses to infuse him with substance. Brian Ellingsen portrays one of those muses as The Musician.

With Mark Bennett’s original music and sound design, The Musician stands on a stairway in the theater, and either on his own or with a invitation from The Poet by a wave of his hand, draws his bow across his giant double bass to add an appropriate sound to the story telling — like when he mimicks the thundering sound of horse hooves as the Poet describes an attack.

Woronicz and Ellingsen create a beautiful marriage of a truly unique presentation about ancient times with the underlying message that bad things never seem to end.

If you go

What: ‘An Iliad’
When: Matinees, evenings through Sept. 9
Where: La Jolla Playhouse, Mandell Weiss Theatre, UCSD campus
Tickets: From $26
Phone: (858) 550-1010
Website: lajollaplayhouse.org

Related posts:

  1. La Jolla Playhouse’s latest drama explores what happens when teens give up on big dreams
  2. Plenty of hoo-doo and hilarity make ‘A Dram of Drummhicit’ a hit at the La Jolla Playhouse
  3. Let’s Review: Pageant dream is a win for family down on its luck in ‘Little Miss Sunshine’ at the Playhouse
  4. Artful Beginnings
  5. Eveoke Dance earns La Jolla Playhouse’s next resident company position

Short URL: http://www.lajollalight.com/?p=93929

Posted by Staff on Aug 21, 2012. Filed under A & E, Theater. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

Leave a Reply

La Jolla Community Calendar

Facebook

Bottom Buttons 1

Bottom Buttons 2

Bottom Buttons 3

Bottom Buttons 4

Bottom Buttons 5

Bottom Buttons 6

RSS North Coastal News

  • Local camp shapes Solana Beach youth into community leaders July 28, 2014
    After attending the inaugural La Colonia de Eden Gardens Youth Leadership Camp last year, Edgar Vergara was inspired to make positive change in Solana Beach’s Eden Gardens community. Along with other local teens, the 15-year-old co-founded the youth group La Colonia Changers and recently hosted a town hall forum on underage drinking. Passionate about making […]
  • Del Mar Union School District approves new contract for superintendent July 28, 2014
    The Del Mar Union School District Board July 23 approved the new contract for Superintendent Holly McClurg through June 30, 2018. Per the contract, McClurg’s annual salary will be $185,000 with an annual doctoral stipend of $10,000. She will receive a car allowance of $400 a month, 25 vacation days, health benefits and a retirement contribution of $700 a mon […]
  • Carmel Valley 5K and 10K to hit Gonzales Canyon trails in September July 28, 2014
    A new trail running race is coming to Carmel Valley this fall. Jeff Stoner of Del Mar’s Seasick Marketing visited the Carmel Valley Community Planning Board to update the board on the plans for the Carmel Valley Trail 5K and 10K Run, set to take place on Sept. 20. A portion of race proceeds will go toward the Challenged Athletes Foundation. […]