Seattle Repertory Theatre
April 3-May 3 2008
Tickets and Information
For the theatre-goer attending Seattle Rep’s last show of the season, “The Cure at Troy” must live up to a whole lot of expectations. Based on the plot and characters of Homer’s “The Iliad,” this show must bring forth something new and fresh to the age-old classic Greek epic. With the drive of a creative director, Tina Landau, and the passion of an engaging cast, something new is certainly presented. Whether you like it or not depends on your ability to stay until the end.
The show opens in utter darkness. Flashlights are the only source of illumination as the crew of the great commander Odysseus searches a remote, desolate Greek island for its sole inhabitant, Philoctetes. The story is unveiled to the audience (through the use of a lot of clunky, homophonic Greek names) that at the beginning of the Trojan War, Odysseus had abandoned his fellow warrior Philoctetes on this island of Lemnos with only one weapon: the bow and arrows of Hercules. With this divine bow, the arrows “never miss and always kill.” Now, in the ninth year of the Trojan War and with no clear victory for the Greeks in sight, Odysseus uses the son of Achilles, Neoptolemus, an honest sailor under his command, as a pawn to steal the bow from Philoctetes. Neoptolemus is instructed to lie to Philoctetes and befriend him in order to gain his trust. The conflict arises, however, when honest Neoptolemus is caught in conflict between obedience to his superior and his conscience.
(L-R) Seth Numrich as Neoptolemus and Boris McGiver as Philoctetes handling the bow of Hercules. Photo copyright Chris Bennion 2008.
The cast is led by Boris McGiver as Philoctetes, clearly the strongest and most engaging actor of the bunch. His character is afflicted by an infected snake bite, inhibiting all use of his left leg. McGiver’s portrayal of this pain is the most intense and moving performance of the show. Seth Numrich’s honest performance does his character justice, but lacks the intensity needed to be seen in the same light as McGiver. Hans Altwies as Odysseus is lackluster. The three remaining cast members comprise the chorus, an essential element in Greek theater. In keeping with this classic tradition, the chorus members bring something certainly surprising to the show: song. The first time the chorus erupts into intense chanting against an '80s hip hop bass sound, the audience member may feel the need to escape through the nearest exit. However, the maturity and beauty of the melodies evolve and the clear voices move the audience to a new dimension.
The technical aspects of the show do not disappoint. The set (Blythe Quinlan) is constructed as a section of the island in which the rocky physical features aptly compliment the action. However, the lighting (Scott Zielinski) is showy and over-dramatic, exaggerating significant moments in the play to the likes of “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” or “American Idol.”
“The Cure at Troy” is an interesting show that takes risks and admiringly presents a new view of Greek theater. The plot is steeped with that nice Greek tragic tension, and the acting and set demand the audience’s respect. The music and drastic lighting choices disorient the audience at first, but the themes of honor, betrayal, war, friendship, and truth carry the show, bringing this ancient myth into the hearts of Seattleites today.
Reviewed by Natasha Rae