Jason (Kerry Valderrama) confronts Medea (Georgette Lockwood).
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November 13, 2015
Most would probably agree that Medea is at the top of the list of literature’s vilest, most despicable characters. It was so in 431 BCE when Euripides wrote the play – which may help to explain its winning only third place in the contest in which it premiered – and it is surely true today. Regardless of her reasons – her husband Jason’s emotional abuse, abandonment, whatever – the desperation and revenge that led Medea to murder her two young sons is appalling in the extreme.
A compelling new adaptation of the play by Mark Stringham, who also directs, is the latest offering from The Classic Theatre. His version trims Medea by about a third, mostly by pruning lengthy monologues, to roughly 60 minutes of hair-raising, riveting storytelling. His strong cast is headed by talented newcomer Georgette Lockwood in the title role.
She turns in a persuasive, multi-textured performance as the sorceress from another land who sacrificed everything for her husband, Jason, including slaying the dragon that guarded the Golden Fleece, killing her brother and arranging for her father’s death. Now, she finds herself and her two boys in Corinth, where Jason has left them to marry the young daughter of King Creon. Obviously, she cannot go home.
Those events are related at the outset by her devoted old Nurse (the excellent Mindy Fuller), whose words are accompanied by the unseen Medea’s distraught wails and cries. When she appears, Medea tells her four companions – the Chorus – about her suffering and why she must seek revenge: “We are barnacles on the washed up skeleton of a dream.” King Creon (Michael Duggan) arrives and informs Medea that she and her children are to be banished immediately. She pleads for mercy, and he reluctantly agrees to allow her one more day.
Now she is more anguished and bitter than ever, but her fury is growing. It is further fueled by a visit from Jason (properly narcissistic Kerry Valderrama), who implausibly insists that his marrying the princess is a means of helping Medea and his boys. He believes he can eventually join the two families and she can be his mistress.
Medea and her friends don't believe him. The Chorus (Sophia Bolles, Cristina Vásquez, Magda Porter and Meredith Bell Alvarez) is ambivalent, sometimes agreeing with Medea and sometimes not. (Euripides’s unconventional use of the chorus in this way reportedly was another reason for the play taking third place in the aforementioned contest.)
A visit from an old acquaintance, the childless King Aegeus of Athens (Guy Schaafs) helps Medea to complete her plans. She offers to use her powers to help his wife become pregnant and he will give her refuge if she can escape from Corinth.
The horrifying plan is underway when an unnerved attendant (effectively drawn by Bekka Broyles) reports that Medea’s gift of a silken robe to Jason’s new bride became a poisonous, fiery weapon that destroyed both her and her father. Now Medea is convinced that killing the children would not only give Jason the devastating pain she feels he deserves, but she must do it herself in order to save them from being tortured by those seeking vengeance for the slain king and princess.
The terrible deed is done offstage, although shadowy silhouettes behind a scrim make it easy to imagine.
Mr. Stringham’s direction is smooth and efficient, occasionally enhanced by Susan Trevino’s unobtrusive but effective choreography. The intriguing thrust set by Alan S. Ross features a floor painstakingly painted as a classic Greek key-patterned mosaic, backed by several angled platforms and a background of draped openings framed with “damaged” supports.
John Coker's atmospheric original music, performed by the composer, adds a geat deal to the drama. Kudos, too, to Vanessa J. Lopez for her handsome, quasi-contemporary costumes and to Kaitlin Muse’s first-rate lighting design.
The question remains as to whether or not Medea is mad, but there is a telling line early in the play: “Terrible things breed in broken hearts.”
Medea runs through November 29 at The Classic Theatre, 1924 Fredericksburg Rd. Call 589-8450.
The deed is done.
Classic Theatre / Medea
When the hearth becomes an inferno
The Nurse (Mindy Fuller) tries to comfort Medea (Georgette Lockwood).
Photos: Siggi Ragnar