Weston Playhouse reimagines the theater experience with “An Iliad”

David Bonanno stars in "An Iliad" at Weston Playhouse at Walker Farm. Photo provided by Weston Playhouse Theatre Company
David Bonanno stars in “An Iliad” at Weston Playhouse at Walker Farm. Photo provided by Weston Playhouse Theatre Company

WESTON, Vt. – “An Iliad,” starring David Bonanno in what is essentially a one-man show, combines the actor’s gripping intensity, effectively simple lighting and set design, and an open-sided tent locale, for an incredibly unique and intimate theatrical experience to herald Weston Playhouse’s return to live performances at their Walker Farm location.

The story of “An Iliad” is based on Homer’s classic poem, joining the Trojan War nine years into the ongoing battle between the Greeks and the Trojans, highlighting the power struggle between gods, like Achilles, and the mortal rulers of Troy, particularly Hector, the prince of Troy.

In this adaptation, our Poet, played by Bonanno, also weaves in the ongoing struggle between men driven by rage throughout the centuries resulting in an unending list of warfare stretching throughout history. Our Poet himself asking the question, “When do you know when you’ve won?” and the viewer is left acknowledging that mankind really has learned nothing.

Any fear I might have had not knowing Homer’s classic in its original form was dispelled through the detailed telling of the story, characters, and the setting.

With Actor’s Equity not allowing indoor performances, Director Meredith McDonough, along with Weston Playhouse’s Executive Artist Director Susanna Gellert, embraced the challenge of how to stage performances while answering to health requirements resulting from the pandemic.

Not only was Bonanno absolutely captivating in the performance, but the theatre itself, a large white tent with sides open to the air, infiltrated by the sounds of the countryside as evening approached, brought lovely layers to the performance that could never be duplicated. Bonanno’s entrance also took advantage of the locale, meandering amongst the greenery outside, stopping to pick up a piece of grass or flower, before wandering in and looking around to see all of us waiting to hear his tale.

A simple stage area reminiscent of a foxhole, with lights strung from above, directed the audiences’ attention. Several “moos” from local cows and the mowing of nearby fields all added, rather than detracted, from the play. Audience members were all separated into small pods around the tent, with a total audience size of approximately 75 or so, which added to the intimacy of the evening.

In addition to Bonanno, there were nine Muses who arrived to play piano and sing a few lines here and there, coming in and out, to highlight the story; but it’s really Bonanno’s gift that keeps the audience riveted until the very end.

“An Iliad” performances run from July 14 to Aug. 7.

Two- and three-show subscriptions and single tickets are available online and by calling the Weston Box Office at 802-824-5288. Gift cards can be purchased online at www.westonplayhouse.org.

The Weston Playhouse Theatre Company is a nonprofit organization supported in part by funds from the National Endowment for the Arts and an ever-growing family of individuals and organizations who believe in the impact that the performing arts makes on its community.

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