“Medea” presented by Seattle Shakespeare

OK, I know it’s self-evident, but how can anyone writing about Medea be faulted for quoting, “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned”? We all know the story, Medea’s husband, Jason, abandons her to marry the Greek princess of Corinth. Not only must Medea be divorced from the man she loves, but the new bride’s father, Creon, banishes her from the kingdom. Out she must go, now, immediately. This is almost worse than a death sentence. Overcome with grief, anger, hatred she begs for one more day before the sentence is carried out. Oh foolish king, don’t you know how dangerous she is? In her 24 hours Medea manages to murder the new bride and kill her two young, beloved sons. Take that Jason! Take that for your perfidy!

Powerful stuff, this Euripides play written in 431 BCE and based on earlier versions of the story. In this production we have commanding staging under the direction of Kelly Kitchens. Andrea Bryn Bush’s set is spare but marvelously effective. There’s no need on stage for elaborate backdrops and scenery. It’s the acting you want to focus on. There’s little else but three benches and a swing. Above it all are stark, bare branches.

Kent Cubbage’s lighting subtly then boldly reinforces mood throughout. An interesting decision was to clothe all the characters in contemporary dress. The Greek Chorus is composed of women, dressed in different modern garb and representing various ethnicities and body builds. It’s an ancient world Euripides writes about, but the perfidy, the thirst for power, the jealousy, the parental love—all of these modern emotions— are here as well as there, thus a modern chorus.

And what an astounding performance Alexandra Tavares gives as Medea! She’s on stage for almost the entire play. Anger, heartbreak, disillusionment, fury, tender love of children, hopefulness, desolation, grief! She offers us all of that and more. Her scene where she tries to make up her mind whether she should really kill the children is mesmerizing. In Tavares’ hands, Medea becomes a more tragic figure than I have ever before seen.

My only carp concerns the opening scene when the nursemaid is on stage alone. She speaks in heavily accented English and also in Spanish. I’m still trying to figure out what that added to a production that otherwise is simply marvelous. Hurry and get your tickets. It closes Nov. 13.

Through Nov. 13, produced by Seattle Shakespeare, Center House Theatre, Seattle Center, (206-733-8222 or seattleshakespeare.org).

Leave a Reply