Seattle Shakespeare Company continues its rich tradition of presenting excellent classic theater that challenges, educates, and enlightens by presenting interesting juxtapositions from other eras to ours. This time: Medea – a very well-done interpretation of the very dark Greek tragedy written by Euripides in 431BC. Billed as “a white hot tragedy of love that burns into rage” it is a historic theater classic – one you are not likely to run into very often. And, one you should experience. This is why, in my opinion, the Seattle Shakespeare Company is such an important player in the Seattle theater scene with its show selections and excellent productions!
This production is sleekly directed by Kelly Kitchens, “professional director, actor, adaptor and teaching artist…named best Director by the 2015 Seattle Weekly and listed in Seattle Magazines first listing of “Seattle’s 20 Most Talented”. Kitchens uses the Samuel French’s McLeish and Raphael translation which Vanity Fair’s Charles Ishwood says is: “…elegance and concision…properly classical; and, yet the rhythms and vocabulary are our own, not the rarefied versions that can keep us at a distance in many productions of ancient plays.”
I agree. It matches up so well with the modern, simple, stunning set by Andrea Bryn Bush as do most of the many twists and touches of today that Kitchen’s adds to help firmly set this production in contemporary and political times.
The Seattle-based Shenandoah Davis’s new and debut composition for the chorus (a feature of ancient theater – here uniquely written by Euripides) is wonderfully intricate, rich and mesmerizing. The chorus member’s voices are excellent! According to Kitchen’s “they are not solely the voice of reason nor a counter to the turmoil…Not exclusively devoted followers…”
The raw, gut-wrenching, rage of Alexandra Tavares as Medea is magnificently done as she plays – first the victim – the understandably spurned and angry everywoman who slides into a monster of madness (or, maybe not…) by the end.
Alexandra Tavares as Medea with the chorus. Photo: John Ullman.
Greek Tragedy is a phenomena of its own. A classic form of play that is very different than anything we see as relevant and redemptive theater. Perhaps, television comes closest to the dark theme presented here with Breaking Bad, Weeds and House of Cards – deep psychological dramas and characters so disturbing flawed that weirdly we cannot turn away as we watch them destroy in reverse: evil over good.
Before its time, Euripidean drama used realistic portrayals of his characters’ psychological dynamics. An insecure character, often tragically troubled and flawed by internal conflict. Unlike any other authors of his time, he uses female protagonists in his plays, such as Medea, and feministic themes to portray the patriarchal society, a woman’s tormented sensitivity and irrational impulses that collide. Raising the questions of how to get justice in an unjust world. It all leaves the audience like deer staring into headlights unable to move, look away or even clap very long or loudly at the end.
To understand this play and its importance may take some googling – better done before you go. And, as usual, this theater does an excellent job of educating its audience with written pieces on its work in the program. They get you started here, and offer free programs before and after the play. Read up on classic Greek tragedy and learn about this play and Euripides.