Sunday, August 03, 2008

Medea at Dream Theatre

We went to see Medea last night. Not the famous Greek tragedy by Euripides. The new version of Medea by Jeremy Menekseoglu.

In both versions we encounter a terrifying but psychologically penetrating tale of a woman betrayed and the mad revenge she takes on her husband and her children.

Menekseoglu retains many of the classical features, but uses them to startlingly modern effect. I kept staring in fascination at the way he used "the chorus of sadistic girls" who speak at times in rhyme and who haunt Medea's troubled mind like an echo chamber of her most disturbed thoughts. Anna Weiler, the "chorus girl with broken doll", was particularly troubling when she spilled red yarn from her doll's head.

As usual with Dream Theatre, all the performances were exquisite. Menekseoglu's plays always give the actors plenty of meat to work with, and his direction always brings out the actors' ability to explore a range of strong conflicting feelings. They really come alive onstage.

Medea herself is the centerpiece of the story, vividly portrayed as a simmering pot of anger and love by Rachel Martindale. Medea realizes that if a chorus has arrived it can only mean one thing - a tragedy is coming her way. She tries to shoo them away, angrily, repeatedly. She doesn't want to be a character in a tragedy. But in the end she succumbs to the way they reinforce her worst fantasies of revenge. Often I felt like I was listening to the voices in her head.

One distinctive modern aspect of the play is the concern for the children of Medea. The twin boys find themselves blamed for their parents' nasty break-up, and feel almost forgotten as their mother and father vent their rage. In this respect, you had the sense you were present to witness the inner workings of a very contemporary, and very dysfunctional, divorce, where the children are the innocent victims.

This performance marked Dream Theatre's arrival at an actual home. Up till now their work has been performed at theater spaces belonging to other people. But now they have bought their own space - a nice big space in the up-and-coming Pilsen theater and art-gallery area.

I've been following Jeremy Menekseoglu's Dream Theatre for years, and he has really made a name for himself and his theater here in Chicago. Nowadays he even gets favorable reviews! The company has earned those reviews by tremendous creativity, hard work, and sheer talent.

Anguished Medea, the voices in your head,
leave those around you wounded, tortured, dead.

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