"An Iliad" feels like it needs just a little bit more somehow.
For an hour and 20 minutes with no intermission, Avi Hoffman is onstage at the Mizner Park Cultural Arts Center in Boca Raton, recounting the epic poem by Homer as a monologue by playwrights Denis O'Hare and Lisa Peterson. Hoffman plays "the Poet" while dressed as a war correspondent.
Aside from being an impressive feat of memorization by Hoffman, who may be best known for portraying Sid Raskin on the Starz series "Magic City," this show still needs a bit more.
No, not words, and certainly nothing more from Hoffman, who mostly plows through with admirable gusto and bounds up and down and around and aournd the set like a man on a mission, with a story he has to, just has to, tell us.
But more of a clear and sharp focus from the story, which revisits with mind-numbing detail the 10-year siege of Troy by the Greeks and the battle between Greek warrior Achilles and Trojan prince Hector and how — and here is the really important part — wars are often fought for the most-capricious reasons (and camouflaged under poltical avarice).
After all, the title is "An Iliad," as opposed to "The Iliad." But the distinction gets lost, despite a few references early on and then late in the performance linking the ancient battle to Iraq … Afghanistan … Syria.
But in the long, long middle, there is an eyes-glazed-over stretch where the authors lay down the foundation for what is to come, and we are painfully aware of their machinations.
The play is being produced by the Outre Theatre Company, a just-shy-of-2-years-old troupe, and directed by its president, Skye Whitcomb, who has assembled a smart creative team.
Whenever Hoffman speaks of the unimaginable bloodshed or atrocities, lighting designer Stefanie Howard bathes him in red. Sound designer Danny Butler creates an echo effect when the gods whisper into mortal ears, and scenic designer Sean McClelland’s shoreline rampart could be the ground zero of an amphibious assault, anytime, anywhere.
Occasionally, the Poet calls for his muses, who sometimes fail him, driving him to drink or to strum a few chords on his guitar, as if hoping inspiration will come. Hoffman's task here is Herculean, affecting different personas as he calls up all the players from the Trojan War, including kings, queens, heros, gods and bit players. Sometimes, he just sits there for a few moments, collecting himself as the magnitude of his words sink in.
Like many a reporter on the front lines, he has to let the visuals and sounds help him tell the story, asking the muses to project images and video high up on center stage.
Combined with words, this theatrical device brings it all home and makes "An Iliad" virtually vibrate with verisimilitude, particularly in a final montage of orgiastic violence and suffering.
This is when "An Iliad" doesn't feel as if it needs anything more.
IF YOU GO
When: 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 7 p.m. Sundays; 2 p.m. matinees Saturdays and Sundays
Where: Mizner Park Cultural Arts Center, 201 Plaza Real in Boca Raton
Cost: $40 for adults; $35 for seniors; $30 for students
Contact: 954-300-2149 or OutreTheatreCompany.comCopyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times