Believe the hype. Here are three reasons why The Cure at Troy, currently playing at Seattle Rep, is worth a trip to the theatre:
1. It’s relevant
The Cure at Troy was written by Seamus Heaney as a response to the turmoil going on in Northern Ireland during the 1980s and ‘90s. Based on the play Philoctetes by ancient Greek playwright Sophocles, the adaptation retains some classical elements while integrating new styles into the ancient story. The chorus provides a narrative and commentary in mostly poetic verse as the main characters perform in contemporary language; this juxtaposition makes for occasional and welcome comedy (ex. “We’re Greeks with a job to do.”) In addition to being surprisingly funny in moments, the script is also powerful in its theme of conflicting morals – does one do what he is told by his leaders or does he follow his own personal truth? You don’t have to know or understand ancient Greek history to appreciate this premise which is undeniably relevant in today’s world.
The cast of The Cure at Troy at Seattle Rep. Photo by Chris Bennion.
2. It’s a combination of commanding art forms, not just a play
The story is simple: Odysseus, a Greek general, learns that he needs the bow of Hercules (a god) in order to win the war against Troy. The problem? He has left the bow is possession of Philoctetes, a wounded soldier he abandoned on a barren island with a mortal wound ten years ago. He now needs to retrieve the weapon and sends Neoptolemus, the young son of Achilles, to win Philoctetes’ trust and steal the bow. Movement is incorporated into the story as well as vibrant music by Josh Schmidt. Although some of the dance like motions are out of place, these elements invigorate the production and provide an ‘other-worldly’ quality at times. Lighting by Scott Zielinski also infuses the show with energy and transcendence. Sometimes these efforts are over the top – the Technicolor light show at the climax, the clichéd tune played at the end – but overall this imaginative take on the story protects it from becoming a stuffy remnant of a history book and keeps in fresh and intriguing. The tale is presented as an artistic creation that aims to prove the timelessness of ancient themes.
3. The performances
The cast is committed to their performances, delivering them with drive and assuredness. As Philoctetes, the abandoned archer who now wallows in his own physical and emotional agony, Boris McGiver is determined. He brings a strong sense of urgency to his role and believably transitions from his character’s moments of untainted wisdom to those of his immense anger and pain. Seth Numrich plays the young Neoptolemus with a sincerity, ambition and fitting confusion. As his morals conflict within himself he shows a tender quality of authentic earnestness. The character of Odysseus, played by Hans Altwies with condescension and intent, is not presented as a hero. Rather, he is a man who has given up everything in his ambition. Guy Adkins, Ben Gonio, and Jon Hill are the chorus; their singing is glorious and they deliver most of the movement pieces with precision and fervor.
This show is not without its hitches, but the ultimate messages of love and moral purity make it haunting in its significance and clarity.
April 9th, 2008
The Cure at Troy
Seattle Repertory Theatre
Through May 3rd
Seattle Rep’s Ticket Office: 206-443-2222
Ticket Office Hours: Daily, noon – performance time
Seattle Rep is located at 155 Mercer Street, on the North edge of Seattle Center. It is served by buses 1,2,3,4,13,15,16,18,45, 74 and 85. For bus times: tripplanner.metrokc.gov
Did you see this show? Leave a comment and tell everybody what you thought!