Playwright: Euripides (translation by Alistair Elliot)
Running Time: 1 hour 35 minutes (no intermission)
Date of Performance: Saturday, January 16, 2016.
You probably know someone who has gone through this:
- The marriage is on the rocks.
- The guy has found a new lover, and his wife knows.
- The civility is gone, the arguments escalate.
- The guy splits, leaving the woman with a couple of kids to care for.
- The woman is furious, and does whatever she can to decimate and destroy her former partner, lover, and best friend.
When all possibility of reconciliation is gone, there are only two options left: accept the inevitable or seek revenge.
Some choose revenge. It's been that way for a very long time.
This story plays out every day in court houses all around the country (or the world, for that matter). We all know who the ultimate victims are: the children. They watch their world crumble, and are forever changed as a result.
Flash back about 2,500 years to 431 B.C. Medea by the writer Euripides premiered in Athens at the annual Dionysia festival. His tragedy, based on the myth of Jason (of Jason and the Argonauts) and his wife Medea opens and comes in third at the festival. (NOTE: If you follow that link, scroll down to the list of known winners at Dionysia until you find 431 B.C.) The show shocks the Greek audiences, not so much because of the tragedy, but because of it's strong women who challenge the status quo.
All that background in ancient Greece, however, isn't really necessary to appreciate The Edge Theater’s current production of Medea. Rather, that background serves a different purpose: it helps us see that ancient Greece was not much different from Lakewood Colorado in 2016. We still have some things in common with those who walked the earth half a world away very long ago.
There’s not much danger of spoiling the plot, since Medea has been around for so long. It’s a story that’s still with us today. Medea’s husband Jason has left her and their two sons for another woman. Medea does not choose to accept her fate. She chooses revenge. She is the ultimate woman scorned, and she exacts the most provocative and toxic vengance imaginable on her husband. She coldly murders Jason’s new wife and her father. That, however, is not sufficient; she then murders their two children as well, depriving Jason of everything of value in the new life he has planned for himself. No wonder it’s a called a “tragedy.”
|Karen Slack (Medea).|
Karen Slack is Medea, and she streaks across The Edge stage like a meteor burning brightly before smashing into the earth.
Slack is “clever,” as Jason (Drew Horowitz) says; I think by that he means that she’s a sociopath with bouts of sanity. Ms. Slack excels at both sanity and insanity, slipping easily from one to the next as needed to execute her plan for revenge. That she can convince Jason of her episodic sincerity and sanity is not surprising; that she can convince the audience is amazing. Her performance is passionate and frightening. She weighs the pros and cons of murdering her own children before deciding that there is really only one tragic answer. Slack cruelly rationalizes filicide as the only way to protect her children from a worse fate. That, frankly, is a very disturbing moment in Medea. Murdering one’s children is not only morally repugnant, but rationalizing it as being for their own good is, or should be, unthinkable. That Karen Slack can convincingly convey her vengeance as justified tells you all you need to know about her acting skills.
|The Women of Corinth (Lauren Bahlman, Maggy Stacy, Kelly Uhlenhopp).|
The other performances here are first rate as well. The Women of Corinth (Lauren Bahlman, Maggy Stacy, Kelly Uhlenhopp) bring home Euripides point about the plight of women in ancient Greece. The trio is aghast but powerless to prevent Medea from making the transition from victim to victimizer. Drew Hirschboek (the Mesenger) tearfully brings the tragic news to the evil and elated Medea.
Director Warren Sherrill opens Medea with the entire cast onstage, backs to the audience, and staring quietly at Medea. He ends the show the same way, silently closing the circle he started drawing 90 minutes earlier. Sherrill has left no detail to chance for Medea. The children (Ben Feldman and Harrison Lyles Smith) have no lines, but they have an arresting presence. Sherrill has them listening carefully to everything they hear, and reacting as children would. Blocked into a box where they can hide, the children are attentive, following their mother's every word. We know them both not for what they say, but for their complete innocence in the unfolding tragedy.
Justin Lane’s set design is striking in its simplicity and functionality. It’s a two level structure, giving the actors a dramatic separation when Medea drags her dead children to the upper level. Lane has also fenced off six narrow vertical tubes,giving depth to the set and an opportunity for Kevin Taylor’s lighting design to shine in soft blue hues.
Medea at The Edge is intense, powerful, and shocking. When I see a show, I watch the audience as well as the actors. The reaction to Medea was unusual. When the lights went up at the end, there was no rush to the exits. The audience sat there quietly for a minute, processing the emotional roller coaster of Medea. Everyone in the room was clearly moved by what they had just witnessed on The Edge stage.
The Edge Theater is hardly risk averse; that’s why it’s called The Edge. With Medea, their risk is that a 2,500 year old script might have a limited audience in 2016. For those who think there is little value in staging a classic Greek tragedy, let me disabuse you of that notion. This is a relevant, important, and altogether stunning production in the best Edge tradition.
This show could be disturbing for young children.
As I sometimes do, I'm going to step up to my soapbox a bit. Medea is a powerful, relevant script that portrays a vengeful woman committing hideous crimes. There's no question that these crimes are still committed today. However, the reality is that domestic violence is committed in much greater numbers by men than by women. It happens in all levels of society.
Medea might work well today with some gender reversals. We would readily recognize a male Medea as the deadly, determined menace many women still fear 2,500 years after Euripides identified the problem. And because we know that male Medeas are common, our fear would be more real than theatrical.
OK. Off the soapbox.
There is ample free parking in the lot across the street, and on surrounding streets. Concessions are available and can be consumed in the theater. There are two special cocktails available for this show; I tried the Medea Myth. It’s a delicious mix of Jameson Irish Whiskey, ginger ale, and cranberry juice.
Pre/Post Show Dining Recommendation:
Colorado Mountain Pies are a special treat that we can’t get in Colorado Springs anymore. When we have time, we love to stop at Beaujo’s Pizza in Arvada on our way to shows on the west side of Denver. It’s at 7525 W 53rd Avenue in Arvada, or about a 10 minute drive to or from The Edge Theater.
We tried the gluten free crust, which is lower in calories with a much thinner crust than the traditional Mountain or Prairie pies. We’ll have it again; our gluten free pizza was just as delicious as every other pizza we’ve had a Beaujo’s.
Beaujo’s has evolved somewhat over the years. They now have a green program, and they have expanded their draft beer offerings. For Colorado comfort food, it’s hard to beat Beaujo’s.
Producer: Patty Yaconis
Director: Warren Sherrill
Sound Design: Jason Duct
Set Design: Justin Lane
Lighting Design: Kevin Taylor
Costume Design: Daniel Burns
Stage Manager: Katie Espinoza
Production Coordinator: Lara Maerz
Medea: Karen Slack
Nurse: C. Kelly Leo
Tutor: Jim Valone
Children: Ben Feldman, Harrison Lyles Smith
Women of Corinth: Lauren Bahlman, Maggy Stacy, Kelly Uhlenhopp
Creon: Rick Yaconis
Jason: Drew Horowitz
Aegeus: Mark Collins
Messenger: Drew Hirschboek