By Marcina Zaccaria . . .
A haunting tragedy, Medea is arguably one of the most controversial dramas for the stage. As we recognize Women’s History Month, we cannot ignore this stunning Greek tragedy that slowly reveals a shocking portrayal of a Woman.
Eilin O’Dea portrays Medea, whose dark arts as a witch are celebrated. Appearing on stage in a fantastic long, black dress with a fuchsia bottom, she exudes confidence while holding in despair. She is not rivaled on stage by the tall Creon, who speaks and sings with an authority that is essential to the courtly world where the characters reside. Fusion Theatre’s artistic director has done a fine job casting the supporting players, recognizing diversity in a way that is refreshing. A chorus of three (played by Raluca Georgiana, Adriana Nocco, and Sharai Dottin) often at discord, are a part of the fine ensemble that makes the stage feel complete. It is refreshing to have a piano, intersecting at different points of the drama. With fine singing in Italian from Creon, played by the capable Paul Gerrit Groen, and Jason, played by Alkis Sarantinos, moments change, bringing joy to the opera lover. The translation from Italian is such that an intermediate or advanced beginner can simply follow.
As we move from Italian to English, it is the suffering of a Woman that we remember. Losing no power by practicing her dark arts, Medea eventually falls in a painful descent. Seen as a calculated, menacing creature crouched in silhouette, she is something of an enigma. She loves her children and cries for understanding with her husband. When she hears the story of the children in the faraway lands of Athens, we see a twist in her psyche. The struggles between Athens and Corinth are reported moment-to-moment. Medea resides in Corinth. She seeks to impress the children from a family in Athens with gold and treasures. Such dialogue sparks a moment of intellectual curiosity that strikes a different chord than Medea’s obsessive, maddening rant. As the players debate what is too much of a gift, the audience in the East Village’s Theater for the New City has a moment to question what people deserve in a state. It’s a fine question that is not weighed too heavily or paced too quickly.
O’Dea has gone through great strides to see the Sinner and the Saint, allowing the plot-driven drama to gain in momentum until the end of the play. When the poetry of Greek drama reaches its height and Medea eventually decides to harm her children, the live music crescendos, creating an extraordinary sense of woe. The tension and the struggle that has persisted has an alarming and potent release. A bit disappointing, however, was the spare set dressing and lighting design. We hope to see more from the theater company that has brought to life what is most essential to the actor/singer, while not deemphasizing that there is much further to go in the mind of the spectator who appreciates a spin on the classics.
Medea. Through March 12 at Theater for the New City (155 First Avenue between East Ninth and Tenth Streets). www.theaterforthenewcity.net
Cover Photo: Sharai Dottin, Adriana Nocco, Raluca Georgiana