Weekly Wire
Weekly Alibi A Woman Scorned

By Steven Robert Allen

NOVEMBER 9, 1998:  By the time the lights go up at the end of the Riverside Repertory Theatre's jazzy new adaptation of Euripides' Medea, you'll know exactly what sweet William Shakespeare meant when he said, "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned."

Medea, the sorceress daughter of the ruler of Colchis, falls deeply in love with the Greek adventurer Jason after he arrives in her homeland in search of the Golden Fleece. In testament to her love for him, Medea deceives her father and kills her own brother to help Jason obtain the fleece and escape.

The play picks up the story several years later. Jason has brought Medea back with him to Greece. They're in love. They've had a couple kids together. Yet the situation is far from perfect. Medea is an immigrant, alienated from the xenophobic citizenry of Greece. She's given up everything--her family, her homeland, her morality--all for the man she loves.

At this point, Jason decides he wants to drop Medea in favor of the king's lovely young daughter, a union that would not only provide him with an exciting new sex toy but also greatly further his political ambitions. When Jason tells Medea the news, she, predictably, flips out.

This fine new adaptation by the Trajectory Theatre Group's Michael Maiello cuts out and reconstructs sections of the classical text that modern audiences might find stilted or overdone. Thankfully, it leaves intact all of the astonishing thematic complexity and emotional force of Euripides' original work.

The supporting cast here is at best inconsequential and at worst irritating. This doesn't matter much, though, because the two main characters--Medea, played by Tracey Jeanine, and Jason, played by Albuquerque theater's jack-of-all-trades Joseph Pesce--are fabulous. These two actors form such a tight, charismatic nucleus that all others are reduced to simple props for the couple's extraordinary bloody battle between the sexes.

Jeanine lets loose the perfect erotic rage that this adaptation requires. If it came down to a fistfight, she could no doubt kick Jason's keister. At the same time, she remains a supremely feminine persona. Oddly enough, the new object of Jason's desire, the mousy Princess Creusa, played comically by Annie Giannini, is a sexless matchstick figure compared to the potent, seething, brutal eroticism of Jeanine's Medea.

Pesce has exhibited his versatile talents very well in the recent past. Here he looks and acts like he's stepped right off of a Grecian urn. He immerses himself in his role so completely that he enters and leaves the stage as a fully realized, thoroughly believable Jason.

Although Medea is packed with political, social and feminist themes, these never get in the way of the overall emotional impact of the performance. The interaction between two wonderful actors in this new version of one of the greatest tragic pieces of all time results in truly essential theater.


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