UnderCurrents 2013: LITTLE ILIAD

Got to try and hurry with this one, folks…it’s late-late, at least by my increasingly old man standards, and I have to work plenty early tomorrow AM.  Just had a late night snack in the form of mini-grilled cheese sandwiches I made from a loaf of Undercurrents bread, courtesy of the early show of BREAD tonight, for which I did my one and only volunteer duty of the festival.  And might I say that show is still a delight to watch, and I finally got to properly meet the adorable Karen Balcome, so the night was already a winner before I’d even gotten to either of my assigned shows…only two reviews left in the fest already!  How the undercurrents do fly…

But there were still shows to be seen and written about, which is why I’m home trying to do that instead of hanging out at the Oak with cool people (it’s okay, I just would have gotten quiet and awkward and it would have ended badly…this is for the best, people!).  First up, after my Bread-shift, was the much buzzed about LITTLE ILIAD, created by Evan Webber and Frank Cox-O’Connell.


A starkly disarming piece of theatre indeed, ILIAD brings us along on a conversation between two old, distant friends…Evan, a performance artist, and Thom, who’s about to be deployed with the Armed Forces to Afghanistan.  They seem an almost ill-matched pair of friends, and the awkward tension in the air between them is palpable.  and when I say the air between them, it’s considerable…only Evan is actually present in the theatre space, while Thom is merely a projection onto a small clay figurine as the two of them share a Skype conversation.  It’s a twist that could easily just lapse into sheer gimmickry if the show weren’t so goddamned great.

Intrigued by a fragment of the Iliad he read, Thom (Frank Cox-O’Connell, who is maybe pre-recorded, or hiding backstage, or I don’t even KNOW what, and I don’t want to) contacts Evan after a long separation and they soon begin retelling the tale in question.  The story, about wounded warrior Philoctetes during the Trojan War, becomes a touchstone for Evan and Thom’s disconnect and an alarmingly on-the-nose meditation on the conflict Thom himself is about to ship out for.  An intimate and disturbingly honest show, the limited audience (about half the normal Undercurrents max) listens in to the conversation on headphones…eliminating any ambient noise and absolutely forcing you to pay attention.  The conversation is so real it’s seriously easy to forget you’re watching a play and not eavesdropping on strangers.  Some of the lighting is incredible too, with the little studio space creating amazing shadows to watch as the Iliad fragment gets acted out by Evan.  This is technology and theatre coming together for all the right reasons, folks, by a couple of cats so into their roles I STILL have trouble believing they were acting.

ILIAD is a short show, only about half an hour.  That, combined with its smaller audience numbers, is why it’s running two shows back to back for every performance.  So, you still have 8 more chances to see it, and you darn well should.  It’s something you’ve probably never seen before on a stage, and it should definitely get you thinking…maybe even arguing, if you’re lucky.  That’s it for me tonight, I gotta crash…I’ll be back soon as I can find the time, to write about the last show of the festival, which I’ve already written about three times before.  Next up: LITTLE ORANGE MAN!  Peace, love and soul,

Kevin Reid, the Visitor (and Winston)

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