Sunday, April 30, 2017

Medea—Imago Theatre—SE Portland

A Woman Scorned

This classical tragedy is by Euripides, adapted by Ben Powers, produced by Carol Triffle and directed and designed by Jerry Mouawad.  It is playing at their space, 17 SE 8th Ave. (just off Burnside), through May 20th (parking can be a challenge in this area, so plan your time accordingly).  For more information, go to their site at www.imagotheatre.com or call 503-231-9581.

It is said that, “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned,” and this story is certainly the ultimate conclusion to that.  The Greeks had a powerful punch when telling a story and this is a prime example of it.  They often had a Chorus (Carla Grant, Tamara Sorelli and Lucy Paschall), which usually represented the conscience, inner thoughts and/or reactions of townspeople to the main characters and events and often spoke in unison.  One could say that every “…family has its ups and downs” but in this family, consisting of Medea (Anne Sorce), a suspected witch and ex-wife of Jason (Todd Van Voris), a military hero, with their two children (Duncan Creagle Doran and Anthony Feely), their “downs” just keeps going deeper downhill with no real “ups.”

It is on the eve of Jason’s nuptials to his new, younger bride, marrying into a family of royalty, as she is King Kreon (Sean Doran) of Corinth’s daughter.  He really has no tolerance for Medea hanging around so orders her and her sons banished from his kingdom within a day or be killed.  But she is not without friends, as she has the trust of her loyal Nurse (Madeleine Delaplane) and a friend in Aegeus (Tom Mounsey), King of the neighboring Athens, who is willing to give her sanctuary.  And, although this satisfies her to some extent, she still has the mounting lust for revenge against Jason, which must be satisfied.  But how to avail herself…?!

And now, as the Fates might exclaim, the spring is wound up tight in this clockwork world of woe.  She must tame her fury for a bit and offer an olive branch to Jason so that his guard is down and he is at his most vulnerable.  She offers a cloak of her own making as a present to his new bride.  She also agrees on a settlement with their boys that pleases him.  It is after this that she hears the results of her gifts at the wedding from an Aide (Jim Vadala) of Jason’s and so is primed for the last, desperate act in this fated drama to begin.  Of course I won’t reveal that to you but it is a revenge for the ages.

Another important character that should be mentioned is the stage itself, which tilts and is dependent on where people are standing at any given time as to which way it will land, sort of like being aboard a boat at sea during a storm.  In this case, though, the “storm” is the deep-seeded feelings the characters have for each other and the jockeying for power, as to who has the upper hand at any given point.  It is a brilliant concept and works very well.  I can only imagine the trepidation the actors felt when trying to master this balancing act.  But it works to perfection.

Mouawad, as always, gives us a production/interpretation that is totally unique and is a feast as nourishment for the eyes and soul.  We are, I believe, at the feet of creative genius when encountering productions of his and his partner, Triffle!  Sumi Wu has done a wonderful job of recreating the costumes of the period…I covet the red sash that Jason wore.  And the lighting, by Jon Farley, enhancing the moods of the piece, added greatly to the show’s success.

Van Voris is always a treasure when treading the boards.  His Jason is, to say the least, a conflicted man and he plays him with a sense of righteousness so that, although you feel Medea’s pain, you sense he is totally entrenched in his path with little regret.  Sorce must have the constitution of a lioness as her hatred and need for revenge oozes off the stage and seems to engulf the audience.  This is power from an actor and she sustains it throughout the show.  The Chorus is a perfect tribute to the old style of the in Grecian days.  Many of the rest of the cast have graced the boards in other theatres and are a real asset to this production because of their past experience.  And Delaplane, as the Nurse, and the opening and closing narrator, has an intensity that bores right through you.  I have worked with her myself and she has shown that sense of concentration even in her mid-teens.

I recommend this production but know that it is very intense.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.