The Getty Villa Presents “The Heal”

The Getty Villa Presents “The Heal” – Inspired by Sophocles.

Written and Directed by Aaron Posner

Co-Produced by Round House Theatre

Music by Cliff Eberhardt

Playing Thursday, Friday & Saturday at 8pm, now through September 28.

The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Villa, 17085 Pacific Coast Highway, Pacific Palasades, CA 90272

For some reason, I am always a little bit astonished at how funny the ancient Greeks were. Of course this isn’t just a Greek play, strictly speaking. 

It is, in fact, a rather inspired and heartfelt adaptation of the play “Philoctetes” written a couple of thousand years ago by the extraordinarily prolific and most highly decorated of all Greek playwrights,  Sophocles.  It was also one of his last plays, produced towards the very end of his long, distinguished life.   Aaron Posner is the guilty adapteur.  He was, according to him, “in love” with Sophocles’s “Philoctetes” from a very early age – how very ’theatre director’ of him.  So this beautifully wrought and very moving work has for him been a very long time coming. 

What better place to mount such an epic and yet such a truly intimate, human story.  The Getty Villa’s Barbara and Lawrence Fleischman Theatre, a perfect stone amphitheatre with the classical columns of the museum as its backdrop and the warm sea and olive tree scented air enveloping it.  Like Greek mountain goats we teeter to our seats in the steeply and beautifully built theatre and are instantly held captive by the sun-warmed, ancient stones beneath our bottoms and the magic of this utterly excellent production.

The basic story is this: Philoctetes, former friend to Herakles and now owner to the fallen hero’s famous bow that can never miss its mark have been marooned on an island for 10 years,   abandoned there by his comrades on the way back from the Trojan War.  They left him there because while at war, he trespassed on a nymph’s sacred grove, she then turned into a snake and bit him on the heal poisoning him, giving him a wound that would never heal.  So foul-smelling was the wound and so piteous and loud were his cries of pain that no one could stand to be around him, despite his heroic deeds and famous bow.  So King Odysseus tricked him into visiting the island and then sailed off, leaving him there alone.

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Ten years on and the war still raging, the King is sent a sign by the gods that the only way to end the war is with Philoctetes’ bow.  Unable to bring himself to face Philoctetes and ask for it himself, he sends the recently deceased Achilles’ daughter, Niaptoloma, a brave and honorable young woman.  The King persuades her to lie to get the bow, which is totally antithetical to her life-long vow of honesty.  When she arrives on the island and finds Philoctetes or Phil as the King calls him,  Philoctetes remembers her as a child and begs her to return him to his home and the story brilliantly unfolds.

Scattered through the play are the ingenious songs of Cliff Eberhardt who sits on stage with his guitar throughout.  A kind of narrator, a kind of high priest of what perhaps this all really means.  His chorus, a gaggle of lovely ladies, fierce and melodious, and hilarious and relentless, remind us all of the perils of lies, the ruthlessness of ambition and the utter joy of very clever and mellifluous song.

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.  This is my third play at the Getty and they have all been brilliant.  But I have to say this might just be my favorite…don’t tell Aristotle!!

We all need to be reminded, especially lately, that even when things are at their worst, when people around you just couldn’t get any more vile and ridiculous. And when you just can’t hear any more claptrap, some long-dead Greek bloke’s words, reinventing a story told ages before he even existed and then all of it lovingly refashioned for our simple, non-classical, Greek ears can flush you with truth and love and meaning and hope.

This play may be about our pain, deep wounds and our fear, but it’s also about hope and healing.  This wonderful, funny and oh so clever play made each of us in the audience remember how human we all are, how much more alike we are than not, no matter where we are from or how we live.  It sang its songs of redemption and remembrance and, for a little while, in the dark on a hillside in Malibu, sitting still and paying attention, we all healed a little.

You should never need any particular reason to go to The Getty, or indeed, to see a play, but I’m giving you one. Don’t miss this gem. Don’t miss your chance to reflect on your own mistakes, face them, know them, let them go and heal.  And oh yes, and it’s also very, very, very funny…

“The Heal” is playing Thursday, Friday and Saturday every week now until September 28th…so get your tickets!!! I guarantee this will sell out.


Eunice Bae, Cliff Eberhardt, Emma Lou Hebert, Eric Hisson, Lester Purry, Kacie Rogers, Jaquita Ta’le

Creative Team:

Ryan Rilette – Artistic Director Round House Theatre

Aaron Posner – Playwright & Director

Erika Chong Shuch – Choreographer

Thom Weave – Scenic & Lighting Designer

Sarah Cubbage – Costume Designer

Andre Pluess – Sound Designer

Gabrielle Hoyt – Dramaturge

Erin Weaver – Dramaturg

Marcedes L. Clanton – Production Stage Manager