The return of Gorilla Theatre would be great news no matter what they were up to. But I want to make a special plea to anyone who enjoys bravura acting and the power of a good story: Go and see Gorilla's production of An Iliad. A 2012 adaptation by Tony-winning actor Denis O'Hare and Lisa Peterson of Homer's epic poem about the Trojan War (with a lucid contemporary translation by poet Robert Fagles), An Iliad requires a single actor of tremendous power and versatility. In Brendan Ragan, Gorilla has one.
Ragan, lean and agile, is convincing in every role he plays, from the fearsome warrior Achilles to the mischievous, slightly fey god Hermes. His storytelling benefits from a mercurial, I-just-thought-of-this-other-thing delivery and a graceful economy of gesture; when he delineates the elaborate engravings on a warrior's armor, for instance, his fingers seem to conjure up the decorations in the air. And when he simply sits and addresses the audience, just a regular guy making connections between, say, road rage, and the rage of battle, or when he intones a litany of conflicts and ruined cities over the millennia, An Iliad hits home with force, raising questions about the persistence of war that will haunt you long after the production.
Ably directed by Ami Sallee, An Iliad is at the Firehouse Cultural Center in Ruskin tonight and tomorrow afternoon, then completes its run at the Springs Theater in Tampa for two subsequent weekends. Gorilla's acting managing director, Sandra Lynne Locher, says she's "ached" to produce An Iliad for two years. See it and you'll find out why.
Sat., Jan. 18, 8 p.m., and Sun., Jan. 19, 2 p.m., Firehouse Cultural Center, 101 1st Ave. NE, Ruskin.
Thurs. Jan. 23-Sun. Jan. 26; Thurs. Jan. 30-Sun. Feb. 2. Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun. 3 p.m., Springs Theatre, 8029 N. Nebraska Ave., Tampa. gorillatheatre.com, firehouseculturalcenter.org.