nytheatre.com review by Kat Chamberlain
February 23, 2008
Take Wing and Soar's new adaptation of Medea is thundering fury. Based on Nicholas Rudall's translation, it plays up everything Euripides's Greek classic promises: betrayal, rage, revenge, death, and grief. Where the production failed to move me, alas, was in finding a corresponding supply of subtlety, depth, and complexity of human emotion. I found myself yearning for shades of quiet grey after being walloped by the blindingly garish portrayal of Medea and her wrath.
The show starts, very fittingly, with a shrill cry from Medea offstage. Her nurse relates the events leading up to the wedding of Jason, Medea's ex-husband, and Glauce, the young daughter of King Creon. Jason's abandonment of her and their children, for another woman, is particularly egregious to Medea, as she had done arguably more than any husband could ask for: she left her people, sacrificed her old life, bore him two sons, and even had people killed on his behalf. But now the nurse laments, "I wish they had never set sail."
The nurse warns us that Medea, in rage and hatred, may be planning to kill her own children. From that point on, the show leaves very little to imagination or suspense, whether on the children's gruesome fate, or Medea's machinations. This might be due partially to Rudall's very straightforward language, and partially to this production's full-volume yet unvaried rendering of the text. At one point the two boys play adorably onstage, yet Medea displays more detachment than torment as she rants against their father and about her indignation. Jason shows up with barely contained loathing and glee, and that further turns the audience against him, but not necessarily towards Medea and her cause. After a messenger rushes in with the horrid recounting of Glauce and Creon's death by Medea's poison, the case against Medea is sealed—the audience has not been given enough emotional ground to experience the event through Medea's heart, rather than simply from her point of view.
Trezana Beverley in the title role gives a no-holds-barred performance that does not flinch from laying bare the miserable unattractiveness of a woman in suffering. It is a valiant effort that unfortunately does not pay off. It is as if vulnerability and remorse have been entirely drained from Medea's heart, but this leaves very little for the audience to warm up to. The chorus, performed by Mary Hodges, Marishka Phillips, Beverley Prentice, Natasha Yannacañedo, and Ma'at Zachary, is animated and sonorous. David Heron's messenger is particularly effective, with a colorful delivery that does not go over the top. Another highlight is the original live music composed and performed by David D. Wright. There are moments when he fully merges with the performance onstage and greatly enhances it. He is truly a one-man band. The choreography by Beverley Prentice is graceful and effortless.
Director Petronia Paley has made the stage big, bold, and beautiful, with brisk pacing and imaginative use of the space. However, I witnessed, rather than felt, Medea's devastation of losing not just her love, but also her faith in it, and how she might see destruction as the only recourse that is obtainable or acceptable. I wish I'd been able to glimpse the deep torrents of disillusionment, regret, and despair that fuel the firestorm of self-pity and hatred, and culminate in her ultimate crime.
Medea is not a play that one takes pleasure in, or gets entertained by, in the usual sense. But with equal measures of passion and struggle, it can elicit an appreciation for a deeply injured soul. I saw the passion from this workhorse production, and it was magnificent. Now I just need some real inner struggle to make Medea not some powerful and magical beast, but a real human being.