Meditations on a woman scorned
Everyone, it seems, wants to reinterpret Medea. Thereare many recent versions, from the sober and scary Irish re-telling By the Bog of Cats to the silly and surreal Medea, the Musical. Currently, a Japanese dance company is staging a martial-arts Medea in New York, following a run at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
Sacramento’s plucky, delightfully unpredictable Beyond the Proscenium Productions—which also sent a show to the Fringe a few years back—is staging something called MedEia at the Space. It’s a “modern multimedia” piece, with video, voiceovers and an unconventional structure. Voices speak from the stage, the back of the hall, even the attic. Most characters wear black outfits, and sometimes loops of knotted rope symbolizing captivity and domination.
MedEia is also physical theater. Director Nick Avdienko uses stylized, highly flexible body movement, suggesting modern dance or tai chi. At times, it recalls the visual language of Doniel Soto’s greatly missed Abandon Productions, which also performed at this venue. Avdienko also composed this production’s music. Much of it is good, varying from George Winston-esque piano meditations to punchy, cartoonish rock riffs.
The script by Dutch writer Oscar van Woensel uses repetition and “broken English verse”—including pop-music lyrics—to create a stream-of-consciousness narrative that sometimes opens into dialogue. Combined with Avdienko’s stylish action on stage, it’s an interesting way to tell the tale … most of the time.
The playwright, alas, pilfers too many phrases from songwriters. Phrases like “love me tender” and “love will tear us apart again” gradually get in the way of the show’s moodier, metaphysical elements. It’s as if a talking parrot, having spent time with a radio, was interfering with a medium channeling at a seance.
Ultimately, we like what Avdienko and his youthful cast do with the material. Two women take the title role. Michelle Avdienko is the sad-eyed, reflective, older Medea, singularly dressed in white. Kim Brauer is the young Medea—strong, dark, intuitive and dangerous. Justin Munoz is the opportunistic Jason, dumping Medea when his wandering eye lights on King Creon’s young daughter (skinny Katrina Wolinski, looking like a British mod.) Carrie Joyner, Jessica Pierce and Beatriz De Alba are a hoot as three catty townswomen, dishing about romance and betrayal among the high and mighty.
Lastly, some advice for the audience: The Space essentially is an old metal shed, and a bring-your-own-blanket venue. It’s chilly on winter nights.