I was lucky enough to get to attend the preview performance of Jason and (Medea) on Tuesday night.
Jess Shoemaker’s new adaptation of the classic tragedy debuted just last year, and the dialogue certainly reflects this. There is no doubt that this is the old story we all know, but Shoemaker presents it in a very original manner with sparkling dialogue, cheeky mythological allusions, and surreal references to physical law.
Happily, Shomaker wisely tempered the story with some truly rip-snorting levity, right down to the very last line of the play—but take heed, that first funny kick of the line is immediately squelched by the realization of a haunting darkness underscoring it, which will hopefully leave audiences pondering its significance.
Under the direction of Amy Hayes, the play lightly breezed past without an intermission and was highlighted with fun, stylized blocking and an intriguing sense of antiquity in spite of the modernity of the language. The beautifully designed and constructed costuming—by Hayes, Dianna Mosedale, and Carrie Pierce—was also an enjoyable reinterpretation of the past melded with modern elements. My favorite aspect of the production, though, was the live sound and ambient music provided on stage by Bonnie Whiting. Whiting’s dreamily percussive score became almost a character in itself, and greatly lent to the play’s sense of profundity, wonder, and truth.
The strongest visual aspect of the play was the massive symbol in the center of the playing space, an ancient Greek representation of strength. The lovely, curvaceous, sweeping image was jokingly referred to by the director as “the uterus.” She was right, the thing was startlingly anatomically accurate from where I sat; and while this was humorous, it was also entirely prescient to the story and appropriately told from a distinctly feminine perspective centering on the power wielded by an intelligent, sturdy, and practical woman sans bravura who is far more capable than her male counterpoint, the “hero.”
On the other end of the spectrum was Zach Stonerock’s Heller, brother to Medea, continuing Stonerock’s streak as being the most charismatic guy in local theatre. The man just has a knack for making an audience love his characters, in this case, having imbued the humble and loyal Heller with genuine warmth and wit; although, it must be stated that the person who snuck up and stole the show in Jason and (Medea) was unquestionably Devan Mathias, playfully playing Atlanta and Princess Glauce. She managed to latch onto all the comedic potential presented in the show and rip it open to the audience with a mischievous twinkle in her eye.
Of course, Stonerock and Mathias also knew how to deliver the heavy punches when necessary, with Stonerock making a brief and tyrannical appearance as King Pelias and Mathias taking a mournful and hardened turn at Medea’s prophetic mother, Chalciope.
Full of pluck is Jason, evenly portrayed with youthful innocence and human failings by Adam Tran. His Jason, while the brave adventurer of legend, is in many ways still just a boy—full of piss and vinegar, but in the end, just a callow child who pouts when he can’t get his way and is more in need of a mother than a wife. Sadly, Medea is far from the little woman Jason finds himself desiring; initially, it is her course, cold, steely beauty which attracts him—her power. This is justly embodied by Kelsey Miller. She managed to walk the imperceptibly delicate balance between a combination of vulnerability and love (or is that redundant?) along with Machiavellian dynamism.
Medea’s laissez-faire attitude toward violence is never depicted as callous by Miller; instead, her character is simply the only person with the insight and fortitude to do what others won’t while remaining completely aware her misdeeds and denying herself forgiveness. She suffers for her Medea. By the finale, Miller’s Medea will leave you wishing for Helios to descend and rescue her in his machine, but it never comes this time. She is left a woman broken by love.