voices found repertory’s captivating ‘medea’
sends feminist message
By Catherine Jozwik
Published Dec. 11, 2018
Voices Found Repertory (VPR) continues to bring classical dramas to life with their latest production, Medea, directed by Jennifer Vosters. The play will run through December 16 at the Underground Collaborative, 161 W. Wisconsin Ave. (lower level of the Grand Avenue Mall).
With the mesmerizing Cara Johnston (The Violet Hour; Quality Street) as Medea, Friday night’s performance, clocking in at just 75 minutes and featuring a small cast of 10, was captivating.
Blending mythology with sharp criticism of the treatment of women in ancient Athens, Medea, written around 430 BC by Greek playwright Euripides (The Trojan Women; Orestes) is considered a feminist drama. Although Medea takes things to extremes, Euripides’ social commentary on a woman’s place in society and the household feels progressive for its time, and appropriate in light of the #MeToo movement.
The titular heroine is cool-headed, concocting clever strategies and using her feminine wiles to exact revenge on her unfaithful husband Jason (of Jason and the Argonauts mythology, performed by Andy Montano) and his new royal bride, Glauce (Catalina Ariel, who also plays the role of Nurse). The play is undeniably powerful—and violent.
After Medea and her children are threatened with exile from Corinth, she will stop at nothing to right this injustice—including murdering her own children to spite Jason.
Medea seeks the help and advice of good friends, (Madeline Wakley, Maura Atwood, and Abigail Stein) who act as the Chorus, a common narrative device in Greek drama, and Aegeus, (played humorously by Joe Dolan) an Athens leader who promises to shelter her from her enemies.
Set against a backdrop meant to look like a classical Grecian bedchamber, with pale blue and yellow drapes for walls, the play’s elegant yet somewhat minimal scenery and soft lighting did not detract from the fantastic acting. However, the lighting was particularly dramatic and effective while casting the shadows of Medea’s children (who never appear onstage) playing in their rooms.
The simple, all-black costumes consisted of long, flowing dresses and shawls, scarves wrapped around heads, and black shirts and pants. The Middle-Eastern-inspired instrumental music was well-suited for the production.
Language in ancient dramas can be difficult to understand, but Ian Johnson’s translation of the Greek drama was quite clear, with (albeit sexist) zingers, like Jason’s comment, “There should be no more females on the earth. Then men could live in peace.”
Milwaukee is fortunate to have a group like VFR, a group of talented, mostly young actors dedicated to keeping classic plays fresh and socially relevant. VFR proves that a theater group with plenty of creativity and ingenuity can produce entertaining and memorable plays, even with a limited budget.
The Nurse (Catalina Ariel) comforts Medea (Cara Johnston), who is supported by her friends (Abigail Stein, Madeline Wakley and Maura Atwood, from left).