The Heal Now Playing at the Getty Villa
Thanks to my art history background I’ve visited the Getty Center numerous times over the years but the Getty Vila? Not so much. I visited soon after it reopened and that was it. I couldn’t tell you why I’ve neglected it. Probably because it’s way out there in Pacific Palisades – a good distance from where I live. Recently, I was invited back to the Getty Villa to attend a performance of The Heal and I was so happy to finally make a return visit.
Once a year the Getty Villa offers an outdoor production at their Barbara and Lawrence Fleischman Theater. The theater, located just outside the villa, offers the perfect setting for a show under the stars.
As the Getty Villa contains a collection of Greek and Roman antiquities it’s only natural these ancient cultures form the basis of their productions. This year’s The Heal by Aaron Posner is an adaptation of Sophocles’ Philoctetes.
Confession time: before this performance I had never seen a Greek play. I know! As an avid theatre goer I’m not sure how I’ve avoided one for so long. And I do admit to having concerns going into this production. Would it be difficult for me to understand? Too tragic or too boring?
I needn’t have worried. As it’s an adaptation (I probably should have read the invite more thoroughly) it’s written in modern English – slang and curse words included. It’s not a tragedy – it does have serious moments but it will mostly make you laugh – and it’s certainly not boring.
So what exactly is it? As I wrote before it’s inspired by Sophocles’ Philoctetes and, don’t worry, I won’t judge if you have no idea what that means. I certainly didn’t. Luckily, in the opening number the three muses caught me right up. In a nutshell, Philoctetes is a man stranded on an island with a bum heal thanks to a long ago snake bite. Nia, the daughter of Achilles, has traveled to the island with Odysseus to obtain Philoctetes’ one prized possession – a magic bow gifted to him by Hercules. They need the bow to win the Trojan war which has been dragging on for years. The only problem? Odysseus is the reason Philoctetes is stranded on the island.
This production, presented by Round House Theatre, is a minimalist affair with one set, one act and only six actors (including the muses) accompanied by a single musician. There are no set changes, there are no costume changes and the only significant prop is the bow. Yet, the production is an overwhelming success. Thanks to the skilled actors, the fast paced dialogue and catchy songs I easily found myself transported to a small island in Ancient Greece eavesdropping on a conversation between three very different people. It was fascinating.
I finally watched my first Greek production and it was an overwhelming success. And really what better place to see it than the Getty Villa? In Southern California we’re spoiled with venues like these. The Heal runs Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm through September 28, 2019. Tickets are available here.