October 30, 2020

ACT portrays modernized ‘Medea’

Medea manipulates those around her between emotional outbursts. (Natalie La Spisa / Staff Photographer)
Medea manipulates those around her between emotional outbursts. (Natalie La Spisa / Staff Photographer)

By Grant Playter
Staff Writer

Medea entered stage left, the deep red colors of her flowing dress mirrored by the coppery fluid dripping off her arm. She collapsed, her knife skittering across the floor. The deed had been done. Her children may be dead, but her revenge on Jason was complete.

All College Theatre held its debut of the Ancient Greek tragedy “Medea” on Feb. 28 in the Don Evans Black Box Theatre. While a blizzard cancelled the show on Friday, March 2, the campus community was given additional chances to see the production on Thursday, March 1 and Saturday, March 3 for both a matinee and evening performance.

Directed by alumnus Scott Glading (’77), the show tells the lengths a woman scorned will go for revenge. Glading, who has directed over 90 plays over the course of his career, spoke about his desire to put on this particular production in the director’s note of the playbill. Glading noted that the piece’s core concepts are still relevant to modern audiences, thousands of years after its creation.

“Sadly, a production of ‘Medea,’ a play written by Euripides c. 431 BC, is still as current and true and shocking today as it was when Greek audiences first experienced the horrors that would unfold because a woman ‘loathed’ a man more than she ‘loved’ their children,” Glading wrote.

Kelly Colleran, a junior history and secondary education dual major, portrayed Medea, who struggles with the betrayal of her beloved husband Jason, a Greek hero and leader of the Argonauts. Jason left Medea for the daughter of King Creon, and she and her two young sons are to be banished as a result. Medea will not simply allow herself to be banished, however, and so begins the tragedy of the play.

“(Medea) is somebody who was betrayed and scorned,” Colleran said. “She is not in control of her emotions right now. And she does some really horrible things because of that, really inexcusable things because of that, but she’s not completely the only enemy of the play.”

In adapting the ancient tale, ACT and Glading added some contemporary elements to the play. The actors wore modern formal attire, evoking a relatable yet elegant air to the production. The front half of the set was remarkably modern, with sleek furniture, photo albums and a small bar comprising its landscape, while the back half of the set was comprised of Greco-Roman pillars, and the dialogue was spoken in a formal, almost archaic manner.

Molly Knapp, the show’s production manager and a junior public health and women’s, gender and sexuality studies double major, elaborated on the creation of the set.

“(Glading) was actually really great in giving our designers a lot of free reign to sort of do what he wanted.” Knapp said. “We decided to put a contemporary spin on it, so you’ll see that ‘Medea’ is set in this cosmopolitan, Grecian setting.”

The play did not entirely leave its Greek origins behind, according to co-sound lead and junior history major Christopher Loos.

“We still have some Ancient Greek inspirations — the pre-show and intermission music, for example, are all Ancient Greek songs or those inspired by that style,” Loos said. “(Glading) wanted to develop a contrast between these thousand-year-old pieces followed almost immediately by the aria that opens the show.”

Through these endeavors, the play juxtaposes ancient and modern life, almost as if the characters have been transposed directly from ancient Greece to 2018.

None of this would have been effective if not for the cast’s performances that sold the concept to the audience. Colleran’s portrayal of Medea was hypnotizing, alternating between wild emotional outbursts to sauntering, manipulative witch at a moment’s notice.

At times, it was impossible to determine when Medea was lying and when she was being truthful, perhaps because the character herself did not know.

“It’s a really hard piece to do,” Colleran said. “It’s a really sad piece to do, but it’s really rewarding.”

Rob Hicks, a junior political science major who portrayed Jason, elevated the performance by carrying the swagger of someone who knows he is a Greco-Roman hero.

From his perfectly coiffed hair to his dismissive snobbishness whenever he shares the stage with Medea, Hicks’ portrayal was crucial in developing sympathy for a woman who will go on to do unspeakable things.

The two shared a bevy of powerful emotional moments throughout both acts of the play, and the tension carried between them kept the audience on edge as they awaited the inevitable tragic conclusion of the play.

“I think it went really well,” Colleran said. “I’m extremely happy with the way that the show came together. Our cast has put so much hard work into this and I’m super excited for the finished product that we’re able to put on stage for people.”

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