Guest Blogger Gail Sachson owns ASK ME ABOUT ART, offering lectures, tours and program planning.
Hand-to-hand combat replaces heart-to-heart conversation in the Dallas Theater Center’s production of MEDEA by Euripides, directed by Theater Center Artistic Director Kevin Moriarty. Although set in ancient Greece , with the actors in costumes appropriate to the times, the play’s many messages are timeless. There are cautionary tales of ruthless revenge, of reckless romance, of thirst for power, of the longing for legacy and for love.. and lessons to be learned by men, of the deadly lure of beauty and by women, of the gluttony of gold.
The many lessons are presented in swift, slashing dialogue, never once spoken or screamed out of character by the superb cast. The physicality of the movements, so closely observed by an audience seated at the actors’ feet, in chairs arranged claustrophobic-close, add to the intensity.
Follow me into the 90-minute , intermission-less play:
We are led in two groups. Women enter first in a line, as if prisoners led not knowing where, down the Frank Lloyd Wright foreboding twisting and turning stairs at the Kalita Humphreys Theater, into a dark, claustrophobic basement space… a loading dock, but in this case, an unloading dock. A place to unload angst, injustices and revenge.We are in a space hidden from the public. We are led silently to our seats and peer into a tunnel. What is a loading dock, becomes the theater’s stage, truly a theater of war. Although we see no usual scenery or props, the creative team has managed to create a space which appears unplanned and untouched, but contains all the necessary props and visuals: a notebook, a knife, and handy light switches. Exit signs , caution signs and graffiti , which seem permanent, are uncannily perfectly placed for emphasis . The fun is noticing the cleverness and the coincidental.
The men in the audience are led in later in a similar fashion and seated behind the rows of women, who are acting as the chorus. Their chanting contrasts to the silent, observing men. The characters themselves will sit and speak from within the rows of women, bonding as a tribe and emphasizing the timelessness of women’s plight. The men are at a school. The women are at a “come to meeting” meeting. The men have received no sacred amulets. The women tightly clasp fetish objects passed out as they chant in unison “Save us from the violence of love.”.
Rubbing that object provides some calm and prayer for the sacrifices performed before us, but the white knuckles noticed after the play’s end from squeezing the amulet, makes one remember the lessons of love, and one hopes that this DTC production would be seen by every High School student to warn our young girls of the “violence of love”. Medea laments, “It is a bitter thing to be born a woman.” But she also adds and advises, “Only a coward gives good for evil”. Love turned violent, and evil by either partner, can be stopped before it starts. We must continue to warn our young women of the over-zealousness of offering one’s self to the wrong partner and thus sacrificing themselves, or worse, their children.
Medea runs through March 29 at Kalita Humphreys Theater.