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Review: KCST’s “Medea”

Jason (Hugo Wehe) and Medea (Grace Meriam).

Bwoggers Leo Bevilacqua and Gabrielle Kloppers review KCST’s adaptation of “Medea,” which was directed by Asya Sagnek, BC ’19, produced by Sophie Seidenberg, BC ’19, stage managed by Ally Han, CC ’19, designed by Breanna Beaudrault, BC ’19, and Kalina Ko, BC ’21, and with dramaturgy by Luke Cregan, CC ’19. 

Medea, one of the most celebrated Greek tragedies, is a tall order for any director. What Asya Sagnak, undertakes is truly ambitious and powerful; a story of a persecuted foreign queen who attempts to gain agency in a male-dominated world is pertinent to the current political climate. Sagnak and her creative team edited the long tragedy to about 70 minutes, highlighting the theme of displacement.

The Lerner Black Box was another appropriate choice for this performance, as Medea, Rose Meriam, CC ’19 was attempting to find a center, a home. At the Black Box, the set was bare but nonetheless symbolic. Medea’s “home” at Corinth featured a closet with plenty of her clothes, a few scattered chairs, a bedside table, and a lamp. The debris of domestic life were an effective means of bringing the story of Medea into contemporary circumstances, making it more digestible for modern audiences. Medea’s murderous behavior might initially be shocking; however, when the audience is confronted with her desolate and dark home, her solitude, pain, and impetus for murder are elucidated.

Medea (Rose Meriam) is apprehended by a sultry Greek Chorus (Grace Henning, Claire Fry, Grace Hargis).

Sagnak painted beautiful tableaus throughout the performance, depicting the power dynamics between the characters and using the actors as pawns in an oppressively patriarchal world. The blocking of the actors made use of the bare but nonetheless evocative set, imbuing each rag with meaning.

Of the many bold artistic choices that Sagnak instituted, the Greek Chorus was the most entertaining and fascinating. The chorus constituted of a trio of sultry, cynical, and lithe women. Claire Fry, CC ’19, Grace Henning, CC ’20, and Grace Hargis, CC ’20, are suave, effective, and bold. Sagnak reimagined the traditional Greek Chorus but returned to their purpose: to streamline the plot and emphasize its themes.

Fun times with Jason and Medea.

The Chorus displayed a stark confidence that stirred discontent among the highly troubled characters. At one point, the Greek Chorus, à la Desperate Housewives, strolled onto the stage with wine glasses to interrogate Medea. Their presence highlighted conflict and added layers of complexity to the drama, forcing characters to question themselves. The Greek Chorus, particularly Fry, exemplified great vocal and speech work, displaying tremendous size and clarity in their performances. It was interesting that the actors who were the most accessible and easily understood were chorus members.

The Greek Chorus, a.k.a the Desperate Housewives of Corinth*

This, however, created somewhat of a quandary, as the Greek Chorus often had a larger stage presence than their counterparts in the main cast. Although the characters came to life somewhat, the use of the theater space and physicality left much to be desired. The consistent use of tableaus, rather than physical engagement, seemed at odds with the performance space of the Lerner Black Box, which is traditionally a more interactive theatrical space. This meant that the main characters were often casting off emotions into the air, rather than directing and channeling them appropriately through on-stage chemistry or connection with the audience.

Nonetheless, it was the smaller details that made this performance of Medea come to life. The Nurse’s final appearance, in distinct horror at Medea’s actions, was highly evocative, as she picked at the children’s clothing she had been ordering in the first scene of the play. This technique pulled the play full-circle, highlighting, more so than the acting itself, the immensity of the action in preceding scenes.

*patent pending.

Pictures via Leo Bevilacqua

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