‘Not Medea’ Compares Troubled Moms of Myth and Modern Times

She's not really Medea, but sure looks like Medea raging at Jason while the Chorus restrains her in 'Not Medea' at off the WALL. Actors, L to R are Allan Snyder, Drew Leigh Williams, and Elizabeth Boyke. (photo: Mark Simpson Photography)

She’s not really Medea, but sure looks like Medea raging at Jason while Chorus restrains her. Actors, L to R are Allan Snyder, Drew Leigh Williams, and Elizabeth Boyke. (photo: Mark Simpson)

Not Medea, onstage at off the WALL Productions through October 19, is based on the classic Greek tragedy. Medea, written by Euripides in 431 B.C., focuses on the former princess of Colchis, Medea, and her husband Jason. Medea had forsaken everything in her native land to run off with Jason to his home in Greece. They have two sons. Jason, who is often gone with his Argonaughts, then has an affair with a Greek princess whom he wants to marry. When Medea confronts him about this, Jason makes it clear that he loves their kids but still intends to wed the Greek woman. Medea, filled with rage, kills their children and his new bride.

Medea and Not Medea

The tragedy is in the background (and sometimes foreground) of Not Medea. The play follows a character identified only as Woman who goes out for a night of theater. As she walks into the theater before Medea begins, she starts speaking to her fellow audience members and slowly reveals her sad, stressful life. Dressed in scrubs from her job as a pediatric nurse, she takes the occasional  phone call from her daughter whom she left at home because, as she tells the audience, the babysitter had her car break down, broke up with her boyfriend, or broke something. She moves around the theater telling the audience about herself, and at one point sits down, opens  a brown bag and starts eating an apple. She puts it away when she realizes everyone is looking at her. Woman also takes over the part of Medea in the play and acts out those scenes while sometimes making asides and talking to the audience again as Woman.

Drew Leigh Williams is phenomenal in the role of Woman. Certain parts of the play are long monologues that see her rambling around the stage speaking to the audience. Woman slowly, almost cathartically, reveals information about her painful life. Williams does this with a casual intensity with tinges of humor.

What the play demonstrates is that sometimes the more things change, the more they stay the same. The same pressures of motherhood, having an unfaithful spouse, abandonment, loneliness, jealousy, and anger that Medea experienced, are still very relevant today.

Jason and the Greek Princess

Medea (Drew Leigh Williams) angrily confronts her husband, Jason (Allan Snyder), over his infidelity.

Medea angrily confronts her husband, Jason, over his infidelity. (photo: Heather Mull)

Portraying the unfaithful husband, Jason, is Allan Snyder. He plays the role with intensity and machismo while also demonstrating his love for the characters’ children. He also has several hot make-out sessions with Medea on the large bed at center stage, depicting times when the couple were on more favorable terms. There are intense dramatic scenes between Medea and Jason when she confronts him about his infidelity and after he learns Medea has killed their children.

Also occurring on the bed is a touching scene in which Medea comforts an upset Chorus (Elizabeth Boyke) by holding her affectionately. Boyke excels in her role, especially when she softly but emphatically tries to talk Medea out of doing harm to her children.

Medea comforts Chorus (Elizabeth Boyke) after revealing her plans. (photo: Mark Simpson)

Medea comforts Chorus after revealing her plans. (photo: Mark Simpson)

Although Not Medea is based on a tragic tale and the contemporary track of the play has its own tragic elements, there are many positive reasons to like it. The acting is intensely dramatic with touches of humor, and the contemporary track features amazing modern dialogue.

Closing Credits and Ticket Info

Not Medea is a play of recent vintage by Allison Gregory. Hans and Virginia Wall Gruenert, who head off the WALL Productions, saw Not Medea at the Contemporary American Theatre Festival in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, where it had an impressive showing, and wanted to stage it in Pittsburgh. Playwright Gregory was on hand for the opening night performance Friday. I spoke with her for a few moments at the reception afterward. She said she was very pleased with off the Wall’s production of her play. Another Allison, Allison Weakland, also had a hand in the play’s success as its director. The 90-minute production (with no intermission) runs like clockwork. In a conversation at the reception, Weakland said that it was easy directing such talented actors. The intimate setting of off the WALL’s theater gives audience members a chance to see the actors ply their craft up close, not from a distance.

It's never good to look a gift horse in the mouth although this time would be an exception. Medea prepares a poisoned headdress for Jason's new love as Chorus looks on. (photo: Heather Mull)

It’s never good to look a gift horse in the mouth, although this time would be an exception. Medea prepares a poisoned headdress for Jason’s new love as Chorus looks on. (photo: Heather Mull)

Other members of production team are: Sophia Marshall, stage manager; Adrienne Fischer, set and scenic design; Paige Borak, lighting design; Shannon Knapp, sound design; Kim Crawford, props; and Kim Brown, costumes.

Through October 19 at Carnegie Stage, 25 W. Main St., Carnegie. For tickets and more information visit off the WALL’s website.

Rick Handler is the executive producer of Entertainment Central.

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