(Terry Teachout’s article appeared in the Wall Street Journal, 9/9.)
Professional productions of the Greek tragedies seem to be growing less common in America—the last time I reviewed one was in 2008—and so American Players Theatre's revival of "The Cure at Troy," Seamus Heaney's adaptation of Sophocles' "Philoctetes," is of interest for that reason alone. But APT's staging, directed by David Frank, the company's artistic director, is no curiosity. It is, in fact, an overwhelming theatrical experience, a show whose emotional impact is nothing short of shattering. If you're fortunate enough to see it, you'll remember it for as long as you remember anything.
"Philoctetes," in which Sophocles dramatized the myth of the wounded Greek warrior (David Daniel) who was deserted by Odysseus (Jonathan Smoots) and his comrades, was largely forgotten save by classicists when Mr. Heaney published his English-language adaptation in 1991, four years before he won the Nobel Prize. "The Cure at Troy" is a masterly piece of versification, at once unpretentious in diction and elevated in tone. Without distorting the play's meaning, Mr. Heaney has subtly emphasized its continuing relevance, placing lines in the mouths of the chorus that liken the furious Philoctetes' self-consuming desire for revenge to the irredentist madness of Northern Ireland, the land of the poet's birth: "So hope for a great sea-change / On the far side of revenge. / Believe that a further shore / Is reachable from here."