PLAY REVIEW: MCC’s ‘Iliad’ production not your everyday epic poem

Janice Vandenberg, Narrator 2, listens as Paris (Nick Cooper) chooses the winner of the Miss Olympus beauty pageant winner, starring Aphrodite (Tanya Douglas), Athena (Amanda Hall) and Hera (Tyler Young) during a the scene in Montcalm Community College’s drama class performance of “The Greek Mythology Olympiaganza (Iliad! Iliad! Iliad!).” — Courtesy photo

Homer’s “The Iliad” is not normally reading material for 8-year-old boys.  But “The Greek Mythological Olympiaganza (Iliad! Iliad! Iliad!),” presented by Montcalm Community College drama class, it is not your everyday normal presentation of the epic poem.

In this production, the Greek goddess have a beauty pageant, little green army men battle as actors portray the same scene on stage, and the Trojan soldiers dance Gangnam style.

“When the students read through the script, they loved the goofiness of it, the subtle references to pop culture, and the action,” said director and drama class instructor Carolyn Johnson, “It is a blend of the Trojan War and Monty Phython, told through the eyes of an 8-year-old boy.”

The production is  Saturday at 2 p.m. and Sunday at 2 and 4 p.m. in the MCC Barn Theater. Admission is free, but those attending are asked to bring a nonperishable food item, new or gently used clothing item to be added to a Montcalm County food drive, or bring monetary donations to help purchase a seat plaque in honor of a former student who died this year.

“We do have expenses such as royalties and costumes but we hope to raise enough to buy a plaque for former drama class student Stephen Strandberg,” said Johnson.

The story begins with Narrator 1 (Amanda Hall) telling the audience how the Iliad was the longest poem written by Homer.

“No study of Greek mythology would be complete without the poetic Iliad,” she said.

However, with the help of Narrator 2 (Janice Vandenberg), the two decided that the tale would be more interesting if presented following rules of an 8-year-old boy.

So, like a playground game, if an actor is stabbed to death, they only have to be dead five minutes, and they can join the game again.

When Hector, portrayed solidly by Nick Cooper, confronts Achilles about the unfairness of the rules that Achilles never has to die, Achilles, played with confidence by Tyler Young, says that all young men have their Achilles heel, but he is not telling his, giving readers one of many play on words.

“My name is Hector. You killed my friends. Prepare to die,” Hector says.

“Shield. You’re dead,” responds Achilles.

“Not fair,” says Hector as he quickly dies.

The Narrators explain that the Trojan War, like most wars, started over a beauty contest. The audience is introduced to the candidates: Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty (Tanya Douglas), Hera, the wife of Zeus and the goddess of marriage (Tyler Young) and Athena, the goddess of wisdom and war (Amanda Hall).

Paris, played by Nick Cooper, is forced to pick the new Miss Olympus. Aphrodite bribes him by saying if he chooses her, she will have any girls Paris chooses to fall in love with him.

“And if you don’t pick me, I’ll kill you,” says Athena.

Paris, unfortunately, names Aphrodite, and soon falls in love with the beautiful Helen of Troy (Megan Waite). The two, within minutes, decide to run off together, with Helen forgetting she was actually married to King Menelaus.

The king, firmly played by Lyndsee Cerny, looks for guidance from his adviser, Tricia, a perky Valley Girl character portrayed with pep by Tanya Douglas.

Tricia’s advice is to call in the army and go after Paris, thus beginning the Trojan War.

The Greeks, in a playoff of West Side story, taunt the gang of Trojans, who recant with “We are the Trojans and we are clean and cool. We do yoga and follow the rules.” And the battle begins.

The two narrators, however, portray the battle by using little green army men as the real actors perform on stage behind them.

“Let’s nuke them!” and “Now I call in the zombies” can be heard as the two play war.

The parody continues with the cast performing Gangnam style choreography as the “secret weapon” is brought on stage.

The one-hour performance is quick and lively and appropriate for all ages.

“Iliad” at a glance

What: “The Greek Mythological Olympiaganza (Iliad! Iliad! Iliad!)”

Where: MCC’s Barn Theatre

When: 2 p.m. Saturday; 2 and 4 p.m. Sunday

Tickets: Free

Cast: Narrator 1, Amanda Hall; Narrator 2, Janice Vandenberg; Greeks, Megan Waite, Tyler Young and Amanda Hall; Trojans, Tanya Douglas, Lyndsee Cerny and Nick Cooper; Trojan cheerleader, Megan Waite; Achilles, Tyler Young; Hector, Nick Cooper; Paris, Nick Cooper; MC, Janice Vandenberg; Aphrodite, Tanya Douglas; Hera, Tyler Young; Athena, Amanda Hall; Helen, Megan Waite; Menelaus, Lyndsee Cerny; Tricia, Tanya Douglas.

Crew: Carolyn Johnson, director, drama class instructor; Johnathon Heath, assistant to the director and technical director; Val VanderMark, producer.

Correspondent Lori Hansen is a Greenville-area resident.

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