Arts & Culture
6:04 pm
Fri March 14, 2014

PHOTOS: Milwaukee Rep's 'An Iliad' Takes Audience on Odyssey of War's Horror

Lake Effect's Bonnie North interviews actor James DeVita and cellist Alicia Storin of the Milwaukee Rep's "An Iliad."

You may have read Homer's "The Iliad" in high school, but you've never seen it quite like this: as an atmospheric one-man play exploring humanity's relationship with war.

The Milwaukee Rep's production of "An Iliad" stars Spring Green-based actor James DeVita as the Poet, in what many critics are calling a powerhouse performance. DeVita takes the audience through the Trojan War as set down by the Greek poet in his epic poems The Iliad and The Odyssey.

"It's a very powerful evening of theater, because it kind of sneaks up on you," DeVita says, "that way you think it's just about Hector and Achilles and Agamemnon and Odysseus. These names we kinda know, we don't really know. And that's really fun to get that detail and really learn what those relationships were."

In telling the tale the way we can imagine Homer shared it, DeVita brings alive these great battles, yet also manages to bring to the fore the ferocity and enormity of all wars.

"The conceit of this is: here is a man who's been doomed for eternity to tell the story over and over again, until humankind stops waging war as a way to settle problems, so obviously I have not been successful," he says. "And on this night, I think this poet decides to tell it a little differently and that's where he starts to bring in contemporary allusions to try and make you really see what I'm talking about.

"With all the contemporary illusions it starts to build into more of an experience of human kind in warfare," he says.

Though DeVita is joined on stage by cellist and Mequon native Alicia Storin, who plays the Poet's muse, it's his show to carry.

"I feel like an athlete that has a playoff game every night, so you're whole day is geared towards how much sleep you get, what you eat, how much you eat, how much you exert yourself," he says. "I usually don't talk much during the day."

"An Iliad" runs through the 23rd of March.