IF YOU GO
What: Ancient Greek tragedy by Euripides
When: 8 p.m. March 24, 25, 26, 31, April 1 & 2
Where: Foulds Theater at the Lee County Alliance of the Arts complex, 10091 McGregor Boulevard, Fort Myers
Cost: $18; $10 for students
Information: 239-936-3239 or theatreconspiracy.org
Something Else: Thursday nights are buy one, get one half-off.
On the Web: Sign up to receive more theater news from the Stage Door blog via email.
Theatre Conspiracy samples something ancient for the final play of their season Friday. Greek tragedy "Medea," complete with wailing women, swords, sandals and Corinthian columns, serves up a classic night of chilling, thrilling drama.
The play, written by Euripides and first produced in 431 B.C., is based on the myth of Jason and Medea. In mythyology, Medea was the priestess or witch who helped Jason on his quest to recover the Golden Fleece.
"Medea" the play picks up in the Greek city-state of Corinth. Jason dumps Medea and his sons to marry Glauce, the daughter of King Creon. Suffice to say the divorce ends badly. Scholars consider "Medea" a feminist work, as it showcases how a fiery, individualistic woman deals with issues of passion and vengeance in a patriarchal society.
Director Bill Taylor uses a version of the script with modern language and chops some of the lengthy speeches into digestible bits. He also shifts some of the lines around and brings the show in at a pulse-racing 100 minutes. The power of the words - many centuries on - radiates off the stage. It might be old - but it feels fresh, ambitious, angry and a little sexy too, what with the bare feet and "girl power" theme.
Opera singer Joy Davidson puts her sonorous voice to good use; garbed in a black cloak and hobbling on a cane, she sweeps the audience into the play from the opening moments of the Nurse's monologue. The play's best scene - one of Taylor's edits - features Davidson gasping out the result of Medea's scheme to poison Jason's new wife. Friday night's audience gasped in horror at the tale - such is the power of her storytelling.
Lauren Drexler, barefoot in a burgundy gown, stumbles and weaves about the stage as mad Medea. The mood swings might look like typical "Desperate Housewife" behavior to us, but to the ancient Greeks, it was barbaric. Drexler communicates that there's a hurt, angry person inside the damaged Medea - even as she's plotting an unspeakable revenge. Whether begging for mercy from a king or praying to mad goddess, she carries herself with an air of command.
Elsewhere, Jesse St. Louis brings a swashbuckling presence to Jason. His indifference to Medea's feelings on his new wife illustrates the play's feminist manifesto. Louise Wigglesworth, Tera Nicole Miller and Kathryn Lucero sway and shake as the literal Greek chorus; a scene where Medea summons goddess Hecate whirls with mystical anger.
A 14-foot carved doorway, complete with columns, dominates the set. The oversized feature captures the spirit of ancient Greece and makes the Foulds Theatre stage feel vast. Costumes, like a feathered helmet for St. Louis, gauzy purple robes for the Greek chorus girls or a shiny gold and red reversible number for Athenian Aegeus add a rich feel.
"Medea," like all Greek tragedies, ends badly - Medea poisons her rival, kills her sons and rides off in a chariot. Yet, this tale sings from the stage with fresh language, powerful acting and a compelling vision of just how angry an ex-wife can be. Don't miss Joy Davidson's withering words as the Nurse or Lauren Drexler's mad summoning of barbarian gods.
Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. E-mail me, email@example.com, find me on Twitter at @napleschris or read my Stage Door theater blog. You can also sign up to receive the Stage Door blog via email.