Imaginative retelling gives domestic perspective on classic tragedy
|Dream Theatre Company presents|
Review by Joy Campbell
In Jeremy Menekseoglu’s creative re-imagining of the Euripides tale of a woman scorned, the classic tragedy is made more complex with the addition of personal and marital issues of our age. Characters are more layered, and the line between good and bad is less clearly drawn.
In this tale, it’s not the temptation of a younger woman and the promise of power that lures away Jason (Jeremy Menekseoglu); long before the young princess entered his life, his marriage to Medea (Rachel Martindale) had collapsed. Allegations of slovenliness, depression, and unwanted parenthood show us that even the marriage between an Argonaut and an exotic witch is not immune to the banalities of day-to-day pressures. At open, we see Medea as a Corinthian version of trailer trash, living in a filthy shack with her two young sons. She walks around half undressed, disheveled, and emotionally and physically dominating her sons, the sullen Mermerus (Anna W. Menekseoglu), and nervous Pheres (Madelaine Schmitt).
The two sons, a mere device in Euripides’ original, are more of a central focus here as the play examines the effects on children when caught in the battle between hostile, self-involved parents. Glauce (Amanda Lynn Meyer) is the virgin princess of Corinth who, ironically, tries to reconcile the family into a semblance of civility, and who treats the boys with love. She offers the olive branch to Medea with an offer worthy of Medea’s abilities. Her kindess to Mermerus and Pheres melts Jason’s heart, and he realizes his regret at not being there for them. Rather than a housebreaker, she’s the reconciling voice of sanity in their domestic mess.
As Medea, Martindale is outstanding, carrying the intensity of her characters and the poetry of Menekseoglu’s script, shifting easily from beaten-down has-been to proud priestess who is either a deeply intuitive woman or a psychopath unhinged by bitternes. As Jason, Jeremy Menekseoglu’s range is impressive, going from pompous jerk to sympathetic father.
The script is beautiful, and the language rich and powerful. Menekseoglu shows a range of skills as director, actor, and scenic and sound designer: his use of music and sound effects is immersive. Anna W. Menekseoglu’s lighting design combines with the skillful use of sound to transform the small, minimalist set into a foreign land filled with black magic and supernatural events.
The cast is solid, and the simple set and minimal props combined with Martindales’s modern costume designs create a sense of a fable hanging in time. The Deus Ex Machina is, oddly, presented fairly traditionally; I would have expected something a bit less predictable; the same goes for the resolution. Still, these are minor issues in an otherwise very enjoyable show. Dream Theatre takes some interesting chances, and shows a novel approach to old themes.
Medea continues through September 14th at Dream Laboratory, 5026 N. Lincoln (map), with performances Fridays-Sundays at 8pm (no shows Sunday, Aug 31 or Friday, Sept 5). Tickets are $20, and are available online through Artful.ly (check for half-price tickets at Goldstar.com). More information at DreamTheatreCompany.com. (Running time: 90 minutes, includes an intermission)
behind the scenes
Jeremy Menekseoglu (adaptor, director, scenic design, sound design), Collin Carroll (stage manager), Anna W. Menekseoglu (lighting design, co-prop design), Rachel Martindale (costume design), Dana Von (co-prop design), Paul Knappenberger (technical director)