Regional Reviews: Philadelphia
The Cure at Troy
According to Homer's "Iliad," the great archer Philoctetes was traveling with the Greek army toward Troy when he was bitten by a snake. The resulting wound festered so badly that his fellow soldiers could not stand to keep him onboard. Odysseus was ordered to abandon Philoctetes on the island of Lemnos before the ship continued on to the war.
Seamus Heaney's adaptation of Sophocles's Philoctetes begins ten years after Philoctetes was marooned on Lemnos. It has been foretold that Philoctetes must willingly leave Lemnos with his invincible bow for the Greeks to finally win the war. Odysseus and Achilles' son Neoptolemus have come to Lemnos to retrieve Philoctetes and his weapon. Neoptolemus intends to trick Philoctetes into coming with them, but trickery is not in his nature and the plight of the archer's suffering moves young Neoptolemus. Philoctetes must struggle to overcome bitter resentment and move forward, to set aside his ego and act for the greater good.
Philadelphia favorite Steven Anthony Wright is epic as aggrieved hero Philoctetes, whose wound and resentment have been festering for ten long years. Wright conveys the pain of his infected foot injury so effectively it is hard to watch him suffer and easy to understand why Philoctetes was booted off the first ship to Troy. Watching him fruitlessly attempt to master his agony, the audience is torn between sympathy for his suffering and disgust at gory affliction.
Wright's weeping wound is so disgusting that Jo Vito Ramirez's (Neoptolemus) gentle but stalwart sympathy feels heroic. Ramirez's affection is so earnest that Wright's vitriolic pain response feels like a stinging betrayal. The pair's chemistry gives the production a unique emotional resonance.
Heaney's traditional Greek chorus is captivating. Under Burn's direction Eunice Akinola, Leah Gabriel, and Michael Liebhauser speak in an uncanny unison while maintaining an impressive emotional range and expressiveness. The effect is beautifully ritualistic, especially when combined with the thumpy bass and boom effects of Alexander Burns' powerful sound design. John Burkland's lighting contributes to the synergy with dramatic splashes of color and light.
Burkland and Burns share credit for the fascinating scenic design. A thrust stage composed of three platforms runs from one end of the theater to the other, effectively splitting the audience in half. Each platform is covered in a thin layer of sand. Burkland lights the platforms from below to reveal complex patterns that shift as the actors step on, slide over, and grasp handfuls of sand. The effect is visually stunning and also a brilliant physical representation of the theme that all actions have consequences.
Quintessence Theatre Group's The Cure at Troy runs through February 20, 2022, at the Sedgwick Theater, 7137 Germantown Ave, Philadelphia PA. Visit www.QTGrep.org or call 215-987-4450 to purchase tickets. Proof of vaccination and masks required.