THE HEAL

Critics

LemonMeter

78 %

Reviews: 9

Audience

LemonMeter

Reviews: 0

A bold new version of Sophocles’s timeless tale of hurting—and healing. The wounded Philoctetes (Phil) has suffered alone on a desert island for years, stranded there by Odysseus. But now Odysseus needs Phil’s magic weapons to win the Trojan War and enlists Achilles’s daughter Nia to help make peace. Director/adaptor Aaron Posner creates an irreverent, spiritual, musical exploration about the wounds we carry, the ones we cause, and the redeeming power of human connection. With music by Cliff Eberhardt and co-produced by Maryland's Round House Theatre.

Inspired by Sophocles
Written & Directed by Aaron Posner
Music by Cliff Eberhardt
Co-Produced by Round House Theatre

Reviews

There are a lot of good things in Aaron Posner’s play. The main ideas were one of “truth” and of course “healing”. The truth takes precedent over all of it and healing is a secondary event in the play and therefore the confusion of the play. The play requires a stronger through line, and for the director a viable stamp critical for us to understand his intention or objective rather than a prévenance for the playgoers. In the end “truth” sums it all up, which is almost impossible to believe. (Sophocles version is a little more believable, if one takes stock in Greek Gods and what they are spiritually capable of doing.)

sweet-sour - Joe Straw - Joe Straw #9 - ...read full review


Heal thyself

Each September for the past 14 years, the Getty Villa has staged a classical drama in its outdoor amphitheater, usually a modern interpretation of a Greek tragedy. This year, it’s Aaron Posner’s engaging The Heal, a play “inspired by” Sophocles’s Philoctetes.

Both the original and Posner’s interpretation are set 10 grueling years into the Trojan War, with Odysseus (Lester Purry) having to convince wounded archer Philoctetes (Eric Hissom)—whom he had abandoned on a deserted island years earlier because of the latter’s festering foot-wound—to donate his magic bow to finally end the drawn-out conflict.

Odysseus strategically brings with him slain warrior Achilles’s grown offspring, Niaptoloma (Kacie Rogers; here a daughter rather than a son as in the original), to help. Composer Cliff Eberhardt provides bluesy guitar music and lyrics to establish mood (which includes a healthy dash of humor), and an expressive chorus of three women (Eunice Bae, Emma Lou Hébert and Jaquita Ta’le) round out the talented cast as they emote, reflect and explain events.

Wounds of all sorts feature prominently in Posner’s modern retelling, with the thesis that we each (including some audience members specifically pointed out), harbor deep pain by virtue of being human. Philoctetes’s horribly injured heel is the objective correlative (to use poet T.S. Eliot’s term) of our universal suffering.

The beauty of Posner’s play, which he also directs, is in the ways Niaptoloma and Philoctetes encounter each other—warily meeting, distantly recognizing and slowly connecting as people with agendas and different kinds of deep aches. Though based on an ancient Greek play, Posner’s tight, conversational and often amusing dialogue speaks to us today (though a reference to Disney princesses is a little jarring).

As much as The Heal purports to be about wounds, both physical and metaphysical, its plot turns on lies and truths. Odysseus asks Niaptoloma to lie to Philoctetes, which she struggles with; Odysseus withholds from her the truth of his role in Philoctetes’s desertion; and Philoctetes tells half truths about his wounding but is also blind to the full truth until Niaptoloma helps open his eyes.

There is perhaps a connection between how we hurt each other by lying or withholding truth to protect our own wounds, though that connection is never made overt in the play. But we do see three characters move from the kinds of deceptions that lead to war, and from self-deceptions that perpetuates suffering, to honesty that can lead to healing.

That dance of lies and truth among this triad of main characters works believably because of uniformly strong acting. Purry portrays Odysseus as knowing but also humorously self-ironic; Hissom, wearing a torn and faded version of Odysseus’s battle uniform, embodies a man broken by isolation and pain, deranged but pointed in sharing his experience with the audience; and Rogers carries Niaptoloma with a fierce grace (epitomized by her red combat boots) as she weaves her way through with innocent conviction and learned manipulation to achieve her mission.

The chorus, in flowing, exotic red garb (designed by Sarah Cubbage), works in impressive unison to bridge the themes and emotions of the play to the audience. Eberhardt’s music and soulful singing similarly enhances its affective resonances. And the minimal set, suggestive of living in decay (Thom Weaver), reflects well the physical and emotional landscape of these desperate characters.

While the idea of wounds becomes slightly repetitious by the end, the audience is led to realize that we may lie to protect ourselves and that defense is eating us alive. Healing is a matter of honesty, or so this captivating cast would have us believe. If only we were as brave as Niaptoloma in facing the truth and as willing as Philoctetes to be healed.

Photo by Craig Schwartz

From left: Lester Purry (Odysseus), Composer Cliff Eberhardtand Kacie Rogers (Niaptoloma) in Getty Villa’s The Heal

sweet - Anita W. Harris - Signal Tribune - ...read full review


In a sense, this production, co-produced by Washington, D.C.’s acclaimed Round House Theatre, seemed more like a version of “Cliff’s Notes” than an actual presentation of Sophocles’ original.

sour - Douglas Messerli - US Theater - ...read full review


Sophocles’ intricate plotting, which beautifully integrates internal movement with dramatic escalation, is simplified in a way that drains the play of its profundity of meaning. Nia’s maturity is stirring to witness in Rogers’ deeply felt performance, but the resolution of Philoctetes’ intransigence feels unearned.

sweet-sour - Charles McNulty - LA Times - ...read full review


It’s a one-act play of effortlessly dramatic, funny, poignant, meaningful and harmonious storytelling.

The cast are superb, every one of them and all so exceptionally accomplished. They fearlessly take on this timeless and purposeful tale and all its ins and outs with poise and passion and….here’s that word again…JOY.

sweet - Samantha Simmonds-Ronceros - NoHo Arts District - ...read full review


Everyone is wounded — that’s the overarching theme of The Heal, writer/director Aaron Posner’s ironical, imaginative play about living with pain and choosing to do the right thing even if you’re unclear just what that thing might be.

sweet - Deborah Klugman - Stage Raw - ...read full review


Even though there’s nary a toga in sight, aided by a cast and crew with the gifts of the gods, Aaron Posner’s interpretation rings true and is thoroughly entertaining and dare I say enlightening, from start to finish. The Heal is nothing less than a joy to behold. The 14th of the Villa’s outdoor extravaganzas reviving Greek classics, this latest offering to the gods is among the Getty’s best. From antiquity to modernity, audiences would be hard pressed to find a more enjoyable meditation on eternity, the condition of being all-to-human. The setting, like the thesps, is peerless and in our dire times we can’t get enough laughter, especially when liberally laced with wisdom. Strap on those sandals and make an Olympic-like dash down to the ‘Bu to catch The Heal.

sweet - Ed Rampell - Hollywood Progressive - ...read full review


Director/adapter Aaron Posner has created an irreverent, spiritual, musical exploration about the wounds we carry, the ones we cause, and the redeeming power of human connection.

sweet - Mary Farah - Along Comes Mary - ...read full review


If that sounds like too much or too heavy - don’t worry. You are in good hands and not only is the journey rewarding - it’s funny.

...You don’t want to miss this one so get tickets right now and make a glorious evening of it. Go early, have dinner on the terrace and then enjoy a quick, irreverent and moving ancient drama that has more than a few things to teach us today.

sweet - Anthony Byrnes - KCRW - ...read full review


There are a lot of good things in Aaron Posner’s play. The main ideas were one of “truth” and of course “healing”. The truth takes precedent over all of it and healing is a secondary event in the play and therefore the confusion of the play. The play requires a stronger through line, and for the director a viable stamp critical for us to understand his intention or objective rather than a prévenance for the playgoers. In the end “truth” sums it all up, which is almost impossible to believe. (Sophocles version is a little more believable, if one takes stock in Greek Gods and what they are spiritually capable of doing.)

sweet-sour - Joe Straw - Joe Straw #9 - ...read full review


Heal thyself

Each September for the past 14 years, the Getty Villa has staged a classical drama in its outdoor amphitheater, usually a modern interpretation of a Greek tragedy. This year, it’s Aaron Posner’s engaging The Heal, a play “inspired by” Sophocles’s Philoctetes.

Both the original and Posner’s interpretation are set 10 grueling years into the Trojan War, with Odysseus (Lester Purry) having to convince wounded archer Philoctetes (Eric Hissom)—whom he had abandoned on a deserted island years earlier because of the latter’s festering foot-wound—to donate his magic bow to finally end the drawn-out conflict.

Odysseus strategically brings with him slain warrior Achilles’s grown offspring, Niaptoloma (Kacie Rogers; here a daughter rather than a son as in the original), to help. Composer Cliff Eberhardt provides bluesy guitar music and lyrics to establish mood (which includes a healthy dash of humor), and an expressive chorus of three women (Eunice Bae, Emma Lou Hébert and Jaquita Ta’le) round out the talented cast as they emote, reflect and explain events.

Wounds of all sorts feature prominently in Posner’s modern retelling, with the thesis that we each (including some audience members specifically pointed out), harbor deep pain by virtue of being human. Philoctetes’s horribly injured heel is the objective correlative (to use poet T.S. Eliot’s term) of our universal suffering.

The beauty of Posner’s play, which he also directs, is in the ways Niaptoloma and Philoctetes encounter each other—warily meeting, distantly recognizing and slowly connecting as people with agendas and different kinds of deep aches. Though based on an ancient Greek play, Posner’s tight, conversational and often amusing dialogue speaks to us today (though a reference to Disney princesses is a little jarring).

As much as The Heal purports to be about wounds, both physical and metaphysical, its plot turns on lies and truths. Odysseus asks Niaptoloma to lie to Philoctetes, which she struggles with; Odysseus withholds from her the truth of his role in Philoctetes’s desertion; and Philoctetes tells half truths about his wounding but is also blind to the full truth until Niaptoloma helps open his eyes.

There is perhaps a connection between how we hurt each other by lying or withholding truth to protect our own wounds, though that connection is never made overt in the play. But we do see three characters move from the kinds of deceptions that lead to war, and from self-deceptions that perpetuates suffering, to honesty that can lead to healing.

That dance of lies and truth among this triad of main characters works believably because of uniformly strong acting. Purry portrays Odysseus as knowing but also humorously self-ironic; Hissom, wearing a torn and faded version of Odysseus’s battle uniform, embodies a man broken by isolation and pain, deranged but pointed in sharing his experience with the audience; and Rogers carries Niaptoloma with a fierce grace (epitomized by her red combat boots) as she weaves her way through with innocent conviction and learned manipulation to achieve her mission.

The chorus, in flowing, exotic red garb (designed by Sarah Cubbage), works in impressive unison to bridge the themes and emotions of the play to the audience. Eberhardt’s music and soulful singing similarly enhances its affective resonances. And the minimal set, suggestive of living in decay (Thom Weaver), reflects well the physical and emotional landscape of these desperate characters.

While the idea of wounds becomes slightly repetitious by the end, the audience is led to realize that we may lie to protect ourselves and that defense is eating us alive. Healing is a matter of honesty, or so this captivating cast would have us believe. If only we were as brave as Niaptoloma in facing the truth and as willing as Philoctetes to be healed.

Photo by Craig Schwartz

From left: Lester Purry (Odysseus), Composer Cliff Eberhardtand Kacie Rogers (Niaptoloma) in Getty Villa’s The Heal

sweet - Anita W. Harris - Signal Tribune - ...read full review


In a sense, this production, co-produced by Washington, D.C.’s acclaimed Round House Theatre, seemed more like a version of “Cliff’s Notes” than an actual presentation of Sophocles’ original.

sour - Douglas Messerli - US Theater - ...read full review


Sophocles’ intricate plotting, which beautifully integrates internal movement with dramatic escalation, is simplified in a way that drains the play of its profundity of meaning. Nia’s maturity is stirring to witness in Rogers’ deeply felt performance, but the resolution of Philoctetes’ intransigence feels unearned.

sweet-sour - Charles McNulty - LA Times - ...read full review


It’s a one-act play of effortlessly dramatic, funny, poignant, meaningful and harmonious storytelling.

The cast are superb, every one of them and all so exceptionally accomplished. They fearlessly take on this timeless and purposeful tale and all its ins and outs with poise and passion and….here’s that word again…JOY.

sweet - Samantha Simmonds-Ronceros - NoHo Arts District - ...read full review


Everyone is wounded — that’s the overarching theme of The Heal, writer/director Aaron Posner’s ironical, imaginative play about living with pain and choosing to do the right thing even if you’re unclear just what that thing might be.

sweet - Deborah Klugman - Stage Raw - ...read full review


Even though there’s nary a toga in sight, aided by a cast and crew with the gifts of the gods, Aaron Posner’s interpretation rings true and is thoroughly entertaining and dare I say enlightening, from start to finish. The Heal is nothing less than a joy to behold. The 14th of the Villa’s outdoor extravaganzas reviving Greek classics, this latest offering to the gods is among the Getty’s best. From antiquity to modernity, audiences would be hard pressed to find a more enjoyable meditation on eternity, the condition of being all-to-human. The setting, like the thesps, is peerless and in our dire times we can’t get enough laughter, especially when liberally laced with wisdom. Strap on those sandals and make an Olympic-like dash down to the ‘Bu to catch The Heal.

sweet - Ed Rampell - Hollywood Progressive - ...read full review


Director/adapter Aaron Posner has created an irreverent, spiritual, musical exploration about the wounds we carry, the ones we cause, and the redeeming power of human connection.

sweet - Mary Farah - Along Comes Mary - ...read full review


If that sounds like too much or too heavy - don’t worry. You are in good hands and not only is the journey rewarding - it’s funny.

...You don’t want to miss this one so get tickets right now and make a glorious evening of it. Go early, have dinner on the terrace and then enjoy a quick, irreverent and moving ancient drama that has more than a few things to teach us today.

sweet - Anthony Byrnes - KCRW - ...read full review