Off Broadway Reviews
Who is Medea? What is it about this tragic figure from Greek mythology that has continued to speak to us in an unrelentingly visceral way through so many stage translations for close to 2,500 years? Is she merely the embodiment of the observation made by the 18th century British poet William Congreve that "hell hath no fury like a woman scorned?" Or is her story one that allows for updated interpretations, such as the one the new production by Thomas R. Gordon and the Onomatopoeia Theatre Company lays out for our consideration?
Using a mixture of heightened formal style and modern language, Gordon's adaptation of Euripides's Medea, on view at the Gene Frankel Theatre, paints a portrait not only of betrayal and vengeance, but a fuller picture of someone who has endured humiliating insult to her status as an outsider and as an educated and intelligent woman who dares speak her mind.
Have no doubts. This Medea (Tanya Fazal) is as filled with pride and fury as any of her predecessors. Notwithstanding her denigrated position ("You're with the Greeks now, not the Gypsies" is how her erstwhile husband Jason snarkily puts it), she knows who she is: the daughter of a king and the granddaughter of the sun god Helios. Indeed, it is significant that an image of the burning sun is featured prominently in Mitchell Ost's appropriately simple set design, just as burning rage fuels Medea's temperament.
Medea may weep on occasion, but her ability to control the situation, and especially the men who try to control her, is absolute. When the Corinthian King Creon (Joseph Salvatore Knipper) exiles her and gives her but hours to depart, she manages to arrange for refuge with her friend, King Aegeus of Athens (Tyler Begnoche). And when Jason (Sam Leichter) lashes out during one of their fights and calls her a "bitch," he completely forgets that she actually is a powerful "witch," the sorceress who helped him escape from her native Colchis with the Golden Fleece. Discard her? Marry King Creon's daughter? Take her children from her? Watch him try!
The story ends tragically, as it must. But the added emphasis on the place of women within the male-dominated power structure, and the condescending treatment of "foreigners" give this production a decidedly contemporary ring. Those who prefer their Greek tragedies to be performed in a more traditional way may be disappointed in some of the domestic language used here. But the story remains as powerful as ever, and the production, tightly edited to stay focused on the unfolding of the well-known plot, offers up a distinct and arguably valid slant to an old, old tale.