If you barely remember the Iliad and the Odyssey, get thee to The Seattle Rep for a refresher course on the Trojan War—one that will move you like no high school teacher ever did (apologies, Mrs. Nystrom). Pulled from Homer's classic epic, this version is updated (thankfully not in the cheesy, "Homer writes his poems via Twitter!" way). The play's reference to modern wars is seamless, woven through by the single character of a "poet," who seems both trapped in time and timeless, played beautifully by Seattle actor Hans Altwies. The poet takes us through the events of the war as if he were there, but more importantly, as if we were there—turning an ancient story of gods and goddesses into a play-by-play of war's horrific realities. With small, subtle gestures he reminds us that each of the bodies in those shocking images of battlefields has a name, a hometown, a mother. We know this already, of course, but we forget (a self-preservation tactic?) when presented with murder on a gigantic scale. It's the scale of war that this play really hammers home—both the small, intimate moments of battle, where two fighting soldiers can actually stop for a moment and see each other as humans, and the gargantuan tallies of lives lost.
Altwies's performance is transfixing, whether he's stretching his feet (just freed from dirty boots), morphing between two characters arguing with each other, or in a blind, bloodthirsty rage atop a table. This is his tour de force, to be sure, and a theatrical odyssey not to be missed.
Runs through Sunday afternoon.