Monday, January 27, 2014

"An Iliad" worth driving to Tampa for

   A lot of people were turned away when Gorilla Theatre's "An Iliad" played at Home Resource in Sarasota recently. No doubt a lot of other people heard how special it was and wished they had had tickets.
   There's still a chance to see it. The production, directed by the great Ami Sallee Corley, has moved to the Springs Theater in Tampa for four shows this weekend. It's only about 90 minutes long, but for people who love smart, singular theater it's more than worth the drive from the Bradenton area.
Ragan in "An Iliad"
   The one-person show is closer to storytelling than to traditional theater. Actor Brendan Ragan, an FSU/Asolo Conservatory graduate is riveting as he condenses Homer's epic poem into into a fast-paced exciting and emotional tale of war and pride, of heroism and frailty.
   He's dressed in modern garb, and serves mostly as a a narrator, occasionally slipping into character as a god or mortal.
   The language is modern, though not without its own kind of poetry, and Ragan, along with writers Lisa Peterson and Denis O'Hare (who directed and performed, respectively, the original New York production) make the ancient story immediate and contemporary, without sacrificing its epic ambiance.
   Gorilla Theatre is one of Tampa's oldest and best professional theater companies. It went on a two-year hiatus after the death of its founder, Aubrey Hampton, led to the company losing its theater.
   "An Iliad" is its first show since that hiatus. Gorilla has performed it at several locations, and it's winding up at
the Springs, a landmark movie theater from the 1920s
that is now a recording studio where artists as diverse as Jenifer Lopez, Joshua Bell and Robert Smith of the Cure have recorded. It's a beautiful and atmospheric place to see a play, with old brick walls, very high ceilings and perfect acoustics.
   The Springs is at 8029 N. Nebraska Ave. in Tampa. The remaining shows are at 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday. Tickets will run you $10-$25. Call 813-879-2914 or go to

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