The Greek tragedy Medea was first performed in 431 BC, and judging by Scapegoat Carnivale Theatre’s new production, it should have stayed in that century.
Medea is a woman scorned. Her husband left her and her two kids for a new woman (who happens to be the daughter of King Kreon, no less). Adding insult to injury, she is also being kicked out of her homeland. After some begging, she is granted one day more to tie up loose ends. But Medea is only concerned with the end of her ex-husband’s happiness. She plots to poison his wife-to-be and kill her own two sons, ensuring her former partner will forever be childless.
As staged by Scapegoat Carnivale, Euripides’ Medea has a difficult time connecting with audiences. All the drama happens offstage; we never meet King Kreon’s daughter or see any of Medea’s evil plans come to life — we only hear about them. Then, while we hear about how Medea poisoned the princess, we are left to stare at a sparse black stage. At that point, might as well make it a radio drama.
Thankfully the performances are strong all around. As Medea, France Rolland stomps around stage and plots her evil plan with true conviction, although she seemed to remain on the same level of intensity throughout, which took away a bit from her final act of infanticide.
Her cheating husband Jason, played by Andreas Apergis (who also co-directed), expertly plays a full spectrum of emotions, from the disgruntled ex-husband to the grieving and desperate man left with no one to love.
Also co-directing is Alison Darcy, whose father, former Centaur artistic director Maurice Podbrey, plays the bit role of Aeyeas, who promises to give Medea refuge in his country. Podbrey should get his own show at Centaur, as his charms and regal white locks are wasted as they appear in barely 10 minutes of stage time.
The final scene where Medea takes the lives of her two children quite literally brings the stage walls crashing down. This is meant to convey Medea’s strength. Really, it is a cue to wake up and get ready to go home.
The only new twist to this production is the addition of a five-woman Greek chorus who sing and dance to the music of a three-piece string trio seated on the stage’s second tier. The chorus, including Concordia alumni Lindsay Wilson and Stephanie Buxton, provides some levity in between scenes and partakes in the action by advising Medea throughout her plight. The velvet-voiced Holly Gauthier-Frankel (better known as her burlesque alter-ego Miss Sugarpuss) was also a chorus girl, giving audiences something to look forward to as her one-woman show Miss Sugarpuss Must Die! hits the Centaur stage in the new year.
A relatively new company, Scapegoat Carnivale Theatre has been around for four years, and it surprises me that they would show a Greek tragedy as opposed to something more contemporary. I’m not saying that we need to see another production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, but it is difficult for audiences to care one way or another about a show that shares very little connection with the modern world.
Medea plays at Centaur Theatre until Oct. 28-30. Student tickets are $16.