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Medea (Fusion Theatre)

An exploration into the nature of revenge when the act goes beyond who or what are considered the causes of being wronged.

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Kenny Harmon as Jason with Nicole LeBlanc and Kara Gordon as Women of Corinth in a scene from Fusion Theatre Company’s production of Euripides’ “Medea” at the Gene Frankel Theatre (Photo credit: Courtesy of Fusion Theatre)

[avatar user=”Scotty Bennett” size=”96″ align=”left”] Scotty Bennett, Critic[/avatar]

Step into the realm of human relations, if you will, where the brightness of life is often accompanied by darkness, which takes many forms, informed by one’s reality or instilled by the nature of the social order within which one lives. Things that could be considered unjustifiably evil by some may seem justifiable or even banal by others. Revenge is a component of darkness springing from a feeling of being wronged, whether real or not. Murder, in many societies, is the ultimate act of revenge and is considered evil, but in other communities, it is considered justified.

Medea by Euripides, an ancient Greek playwright, explores the nature of revenge when the act goes beyond who or what are considered the causes of being wronged and includes people and things outside those causes. As directed by Eilin O’Dea for Fusion Theatre, this is one of the many interpretations of what motivates Medea. One thing that is clear from all the various translations is that she is a woman filled with rage at being betrayed by her husband Jason and wants revenge at any cost.

The show opens with a scene from Act 1 of Luigi Cherubini’s opera Medea. It is the marriage of Jason to Glauce (Creusa), the daughter of Creon, King of Corinth. The principal singers are soprano Rina Haruki as Glauce and baritone Kenny Harmon as Jason, Medea’s husband. Haruki’s aria is beautifully executed within the acoustically challenging theater space. Harmon’s performance could be more precise and, in the duet with her, tends to overpower her voice. The main problem with this opening is that if one is unfamiliar with the opera, the scene adds little to an understanding of the story.

This musical prologue is followed by the opening scene, which provides a quick background on Medea’s life before this time and introduces a key character, The Nurse, solidly portrayed by Maureen O’Boyle. As she finishes her introduction to the current state of affairs for Medea, The Tutor (Kat Collins) enters with Medea’s daughter (Alexa Rabago) and son (Patrico Rabago). She alerts The Nurse that Creon plans to banish Medea and her children. As The Tutor exits, three women of Corinth (Kara Gordon, Nicole LeBlanc, and Ruth Rooney) enter unnoticed by The Nurse. All three actors inhabit their characters well, and LeBlanc’s performance is the best. This trio will be the chorus that underscores and gives commentary on the events that are to follow.

Greg Mays as Creon, Rina Haruki as Glauce and Kenny Harmon as Jason in a scene from Fusion Theatre Company’s production of Euripides’ “Medea” at the Gene Frankel Theatre (Photo credit: Courtesy of Fusion Theatre)

Medea, fully embodied by Eilin O’Dea (also the director), enters, seeming to be in a state of despair over Jason’s betrayal and rejection, but with hints of underlying anger. Creon (Greg Mays) arrives and tells Medea that she is banished and must leave the city immediately and take her two children. She begs Creon for a day to prepare, but he rejects her entreaties and says that he pities her, at which point she reveals a dark, more sinister frame of mind.

MEDEA: You pity me? You—pity me? I will endure a dog’s pity or a wart-grown toad’s. May God who hears me— We shall see in the end who’s to be pitied.

Medea is known to be a powerful woman and sorceress. She is not well-liked by the people of Corinth, so no one, including Jason, will oppose Creon’s banishment of her. She convinces Creon to allow her a day to prepare to leave. She arranges with Aegeus (Neil Fleischer), King of Athens, to provide her refuge. He agrees, and after a discussion with him on the nature of vengeance, Medea’s revenge plot is underway.

She sends gifts to Creusa that cause her and Creon’s deaths. A slave from the palace, well-played by Alessandro Caronna, reports the event to Medea. It is now that Medea takes her last step in her revenge against Jason and kills her children.

Maureen O’Boyle as The Nurse (foreground) and Nicole LeBlanc, Ruth Rooney and Kara Gordon as the Women of Corinth in a scene from Fusion Theatre Company’s production of Euripides’ “Medea” at the Gene Frankel Theatre (Photo credit: Courtesy of Fusion Theatre)

This production could be more balanced in the performances, with some characters being solidly played and others being line-readings lacking body movements that add to the dialogue. There are also changes to how the story is told. A number of passages have been removed that are important in establishing Medea’s state of mind and exploring her internal struggle over how she will punish Jason for his betrayal.

In addition to the revisions to some of Medea’s dialogue, the changes in the responses from the three women of the chorus are impactful. The chorus’ purpose is to fill in gaps in the story and to clarify the thought processes being exposed by various characters. While the overall thrust of the story has not been altered, some of the nuances of the characters’ behaviors have been lost.

Music director Areti Giouvanou provides the piano accompaniment for the opening opera sequence. She does an excellent job dealing with the marginal acoustics of the performance space. Dahlia Barakat’s set design, given the size of the venue, is minimal but does convey a sense of the story’s principal location. The lighting design by Daniel Weissglass also makes the most of the small venue, working effectively with the set design and the characters’ actions. Anne Zelanko’s costume design provides a sense of time and place.

Medea (through March 31, 2024)

Fusion Theatre Company

Gene Frankel Theatre, 24 Bond Street, in Manhattan

For tickets, visit: http://www.fusiontheatrenyc.com

Running time: two hours including one intermission

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About Scotty Bennett (80 Articles)
Scotty Bennett is a retired businessman who has worn many hats in his life, the latest of which is theater critic. For the last twelve years he has been a theater critic and is currently the treasurer of the American Theatre Critics Association and a member of the International Association of Theatre Critics. He has been in and around the entertainment business for most of his life. He has been an actor, director, and stage hand. He has done lighting, sound design, and set building. He was a radio disk jockey and, while in college ran a television studio and he even knows how to run a 35mm arc lamp projector.

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