Thursday, February 14, 2013

Review: (Ottawa) Little Illiad

Piecing Together Performance
Part man, part machine, wholly entertaining.
by Keely Kwok

I love an empty stage. Right before the show, you’ve taken your seat, the house lights are still on, you observe the space before you and imagine what sort of story you are about to witness. So needless to say it threw me off when I walked into the performance space of Little Iliad and creator/actor Evan Webber was tinkering away on stage. But then again, I’m usually not asked to wear headphones during a performance either. 

After putting our headphones on, Webber gives a polite smile and tests his mic to make sure we can all hear him. “And with that,” he says, “let the play begin.” 

And it really did. 

Webber is absolutely captivating in his performance.

Little Iliad is the story of two friends who reconnect after ten years over a Skype conversation. One is Tom, a Canadian soldier about to be deployed to Afghanistan, and the other is Evan, a writer who coaxes his friend to make a performance together. The subject of their performance? The lost story of the Trojan War known as The Little Iliad starring the injured soldier Philoctetes.  Evan is the live component of the piece while Tom is a pre-recorded projection on a small clay figurine positioned beside Evan’s laptop. 

Webber is absolutely captivating in his performance. For the first ten minutes of the play, he simply sits in front of his computer as Tom casually makes conversation. But his movement has purpose and his delivery, intent. You care because he cares. Evan probes Tom for more than just banal chitchat. He needs to know Tom’s opinions, his thoughts, feelings, and above all, the story Tom wants to tell. And Tom, even though a pre-recorded projection whose voice comes through your headphones, is just as enchanting to watch as Evan. 

And their timing is impeccable. Though Tom is a recording, their conversation flows as though both are performing live. On a technical basis alone this performance deserves recognition. 

Webber makes excellent use of the stage with a minimalist set and dramatic lighting. Each section of the stage becomes a designated space for the beginning, middle, and end of the performance. As the friends delve deeper and deeper into their story, they challenge one another (and the audience) what is important? What are they trying to say? Well, it’s up to you to decide. And like its inspiration, Little Iliad is a story worth telling.

Running time: 35 minutes. 
Little Illiad has closed at undercurrents but will be performed at the Kingston Grand Theatre in March.

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