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September 18, 2014

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Stage:

Diary of a mad Greek woman

Beane reconceptualizes age-old tragedy Medea

Image

Richard Brusky

At the risk of spoilers on a 2,500-year-old play, a recap: lovesick, psychotic sorceress Medea does horrible things to help Jason capture the Golden Fleece—seriously, we’re talking chopping-people-up, killing-family-members stuff. Safely back in Corinth, Jason marries her, and she gives birth to two sons. Life is good. And then Jason leaves her for the princess. And that’s where the play begins. What sick shit is gonna happen now? You know this is going to end badly—here’s the kicker, though: It doesn’t end badly for Medea. So why is she a tragic figure? There’s no easy answer—which is why the play still gets produced 2,500 years later, this time by director John Beane and the Insurgo Theater Movement in conjunction with the College of Southern Nevada.

Beane remains a great visualist. In this he is amply aided by Gary Carton’s set, a pool of water with four white columns in front of a blank cyclorama. Beane places the chorus of townswomen (ably played by Insurgo regulars Carissa Berge, Erica Griffin, Breon Jenay, Ariana Miner, Sarah Spraker, Cynthia Vodovoz and Stacia Zinkevich) around the edges, made up as statues. It’s a clever interpretation—it gives the women a reality allowing them to be remote, yet present. Beane’s impressionistic take has only just started, as after some offstage wailing the Nurse (Heather Chamberlain) rushes on in a green unitard, grasping olive branches that function as her arms.

The Details

Medea
Four stars
May 22-24, 28-30
$15 ($10 students, seniors)
CSN Cheyenne Campus Backstage Theatre, 651-5483.

That’s the essence of a Beane production—strings of surrealist dream images. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t. But if you’re still game for a Greek tragedy after I said “unitard,” you’ll find a lot to like in this production.

Beane uses the larger space afforded by the CSN black box well, structuring scenes and movement to keep actors grounded in reality so they don’t get lost in the declamatory Greek style. The conceit of the messenger scene, when Medea (Natascha Negro) prods the Messenger (Brandon McClenahan, a CSN student and Insurgo member) to learn how her plan has fared, is ingenious, and lends an urgency to a scene that is normally all exposition. The final scene is also well done, evocatively giving both Medea and Jason (Ernie Curcio) space for real emotional warfare, which they nail.

There are some problems, though—actors lose the thread in earlier scenes, and all too often, nuanced character is jettisoned in favor of standard histrionics—yelling or speaking out of breath because it’s ... all ... too ... unbearable. Still, as events unfold, fury and actions meet, giving the images ample strength to reach into your head with dreams of knives and stone.

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