The Seattle Repertory Theatre’s performance of “The Cure at Troy” is absolutely amazing. It is a retelling of an ancient and little known Greek play by Sophocles written by Nobel Prize-winning poet Seamus Heaney and directed by Tina Landau.
On the voyage to Troy the archer Philoctetes is bitten on the foot by a poisonous snake and the stinky and festering bite refuses to heal, so Odysseus puts Philoctetes off on an abandoned island where he lives in exile and constant pain for 10 years.
But Odysseus cannot totally abandon Philoctetes because Philoctetes has in his possession the magical bow of Hercules, and the gods tell Odysseus that the only way to guarantee a victory over the Trojans is by using the bow and arrow of the god Hercules — a weapon that cannot miss its target. He sends Neoptolemus, the son of Achilles, to fetch Philoctetes and the magic bow. What transpires between Philoctetes and Neoptolemus, and later between Philoctetes and Odysseus, is raw, stunning and awesome.
Boris McGiver as Philoctetes expresses emotions as raw as the festering wound on his foot as he hobbles and crawls about the rocking island in one of the most physically demanding jobs of acting I’ve ever witnessed. (A stage hand told me that McGiver has injured himself repeatedly during performances, which is not at all surprising.)
The traditional Greek chorus is used in a manner that is highly inventive and thoroughly modern while honoring the ancient tradition of the chorus as narrator and commentator.
The chorus consists of Guy Adkins, Ben Gonio and Jon Michael Hill. The three of them sing beautifully, and their choreographed movements are astoundingly beautiful (kudos to movement consultant Geoffrey Alm).
Odysseus is played by Hans Altwies and Neoptolemus by Seth Numrich.
The set by Blythe Quinlan and lighting by Scott Zielinski are breathtaking.
This is a very unusual play that combines poetry and dramatic storytelling with highly abstract and stylized movement. I highly recommend it. It runs through May 3. For more information, go to www.seattlerep.org
Read OffBook: The Cure at Troy, a publication of Seattle Repertory Theatre (PDF format)