Of the countless plays inspired by the Middle Eastern conflict that Bay Area audiences have been subjected to over the past couple of years, Central Works' Achilles and Patroklos is one of the most sublime. Drawing upon source material from Homer's Iliad -- namely, the Greek hero Achilles' dispute with Agamemnon, leader of the Greek expedition against Troy; Achilles' subsequent disaffection for the war; and his ambivalent relationship with fellow soldier Patroklos and Trojan princess Briseis -- Gary Graves' play is a toughly lyrical exploration of love in a time of war. Less interesting as a parallel with today's campaign in Iraq than as a study of the ways human beings interact when pushed to extremes, Achilles and Patroklos derives much of its power from the performances. Cole Smith's smoldering Achilles walks the line between the heroic and the insane; Alex Klein powerfully conveys Patroklos' split allegiances; and Pamela Davis brings empathy and a sense of the absurd to her portrayal of Kassandra, whose powers of prophecy fall on deaf ears. Passions run high, four-letter words fly, and bodies drip with sweat and blood, but Christopher Herold's mesmerizing production never loses control.