A powerful and ancient Greek tragedy by Euripides (circa 431 BC), Medea draws on the earlier myth of Jason and the Argonauts and the instrumental role Medea played in his heroic quests.
The daughter of King AeÃ«tes of Colchis, niece of Circe (a minor goddess of magic) and granddaughter of the sun god Helios, Medea is known in most stories as an enchantress and is often depicted as being a priestess of the goddess Hecate.
When this compelling drama by Euripides was originally staged, viewers would have been well versed in the supernatural elements of this myth.
The play”™s accessible text and storyline, however, is resolutely earthbound and focuses on Medea”™s life after she married Jason and bore him two sons. When Medea is spurned and betrayed by Jason, she begins to plot her unspeakable revenge.
From the press notes:
Set during modern day at The Corinth Mental Institution, Medea (Adalgiza Chemountd) is cast aside by her husband, Jason of the Argonauts (Max Horner), while having been committed to an insane asylum for schizophrenia and under Creon’s psychiatric care. Tortured by love, betrayal, anger, a broken heart and the chorus of voices in her head (Shaina Vorspan, Lauren Wells, Karen Richter), Medea descends into madness and a vengeful rage leading her to commit an unthinkable deed. Joined by cast members Sara Maraffino, Nicholas Hope, R. Benito Cardenas, Jill Gehrke, Ari Skye and Fionn James, Medea takes the notion of “an eye for an eye” far further than you could ever imagine.
The unsettling tone of the play is set by director Travis Terry from the moment we enter the space. Although the lights are dim as we take our seats, we are quite obviously in a present-day lunatic asylum. On stage a handful of troubled crazies are compulsively pottering away at their favorite obsessions, occasionally shrieking and murmuring.
Designer Dionne Poindexter”™s set is suitably bare and institutional. At its centre is Medea”™s room, at first shielded by a paper wall. Eventually this central set-piece is manually revolved by the actors to reveal our anti-heroine, who is first heard wailing wretchedly for Jason.
In concert with the modern setting, the authenticity of the text is preserved, allowing for a few updated tweaks while preserving its language rich with colorful, vivid imagery and heightened emotion.
Medea”™s scornful nurse (Sara Maraffino) – disapproving and intolerant of Medea”™s insanity – sits on the edge of the stage smoking a cigarette and giving voice to her fears of what Medea might do to herself or her children.
In the title role, Adalgiza Chermountd gives a well-modulated performance as Medea that powerfully climaxes when Medea unleashes her fury in two cleverly orchestrated stages. The final monstrous and unnatural act of revenge is depicted in a subtle yet disturbingly effective fashion.
The chorus is a trio of women, from young girl (Shaina Vorspan), to mother (Lauren Wells) and grandmother (Karen Richter). Together they observe the proceedings and comment in unison, also doubling as asylum orderlies when required.
Apart from an inexplicable and artificially happy resolution, this is a fresh and unpretentious staging of Medea that is worth experiencing.
1944 Riverside Drive, Silver Lake
Runs through August 29th, 2010
Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.;
Sun., 6 p.m.
Review by Pauline Adamek