Kevin Quill made the Black Box Theater at Cotuit come alive at last Thursday’s opening performance of “An Iliad,” transforming a folding chair, a cube used as a table, a bench, and the contents of a briefcase into a moving commentary on war.
The theater was not sold-out on opening night of “An Iliad,” but it should have been. His moving one-man performance was literal as well as figurative, as he danced a soldier’s joy at winning a battle, or went down on his knees over the death of Patroclus. He was Hector going into battle, wanting only peace for Troy, and his wife, Andromache, who watched him go, and watched him die.
What might have been a difficult read in school becomes an hour and a half of good drama, from the time that The Poet takes the stage in coat and hat, carrying a briefcase, and tells the tale one more time, including great grief at the waste of war, an understanding of the rage that fuels it, and a respect for the soldiers who fight it.
As with so many battles, the reason for the war—in the case of the Trojan War, the taking of Helen of Sparta by Paris of Troy—was worth only a line in the story. War takes on a life of its own, creating its own reasons for fighting.
At one point in the play, which is written by Denis O’Hare and Lisa Peterson and based on Homer’s “Iliad,” as translated by Robert Fagles, The Poet starts to make a comparison to another war, and what follows is long, long list that starts just after the Trojan War and ends with Syria today.
Just memorizing that list, not to mention the occasional lines in Greek, was impressive. Mr. Quill thanks The Hot Chocolate Sparrow in Orleans in the program notes, saying that’s where most of his lines were memorized.
Last seen at Cotuit in “Side by Side by Sondheim,” Mr. Quill was in “9-Ball” at Cape Rep Theater this season. Among the list of his performances was playing Rocky in the Woods Hole Theater Company performance of “The Rocky Horror Show.” Next, he will serve as the music director for the upcoming production of that show at Buzzards Play Productions in Wareham.
In the meantime, however, he will be in the Black Box on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at 8 PM, and Sunday at 3 PM, through Sunday, September 22.
Tickets are available at artsonthecape.org or by calling 508-428-0669. They cost $15; $12 for members. The Cotuit Center for the Arts is at 4404 Route 28 (Falmouth Road).
A special performance of “An Iliad” is planned for Sandwich Town Hall at 7 PM on September 28. Tickets for that performance will be available soon.