Jason and (Medea)

Michael Van Duzer Reviews - Theater

There were four versions of the Medea myth at the Fringe. Jess Shomemaker’s new play is the only one I caught, and I’m glad I did. Unlike the Greek original, which gives the backstory to the Chorus, Shoemaker recounts a relatively full version of the story. She also chooses to tell the story through Jason’s experience--a completely original concept as far as I know. The play’s language is direct, and the gods, for the most part, have been replaced by Science.

The play opens with the cast facing us, as Jason (Paul Culos) tries to imagine the last moments of his child’s life. We move back in time to Jason’s first meeting with Medea (Jessica Pohly) and her brother, Heller (Josey Montana McCoy). Jason’s ripped jeans and leather jacket may catch Medea’s eye, but it is his need which attracts her. And Jason is very needy. He needs love. He needs fame. He needs to be a hero. He’s like that jock who always needed the extra tutoring to make sure he could play in the big game.

In order to offer that help, Medea destroys her home life, betraying her mother (Emily A. Fisher) and killing her brother. She and Jason will roam the world together as outlaws. The child she bears him seems to cement their relationship but, once on land, Jason’s eye turns to the Princess (Josie Adams). A pretty in pink sorority type, the Princess is the opposite of the blunt and willful Medea, a fact that will attract Jason and lead inexorably to the tragic murder of his child.

Beth Lopes directs the play with clear purpose and simple, effective theatricality. Culos is a fascinatingly frustrating boy-man, and Pohly matches him with a smart and unconventionally human Medea. The fact that she doesn’t overdramatize her feelings makes her final moments with the child that much more chilling. Fisher is strong, but feminine, in both of her roles. McCoy is boyishly appealing, but soon reveals more layers, while Adams oozes a committed perkiness in the play’s most overt comic role.

This is a memorable re-telling of the classic tale.

Elephant Space    June 9 – 27, 2015