Medea at UCLA’s Freud Playhouse

You would think that a marital spat would play out like any other marital spat in any suburban household across the U.S.A.: doors slam and voices are raised with no regards as to what the children might hear from behind a bedroom door. But the marital discourse playing out at UCLA’s Freud Playhouse isn’t your typical feud between a husband and wife and as for the children, their fate is sealed by a woman scorned over her husband’s betrayal. The woman in question, of course, is Medea. The heinous act against her children is an act that has been debated for centuries.

Lenka Udovicki’s stunning production takes on a contemporary flair in this stylized interpretation (taken from a 1994 text by Frederic Raphael and Kenneth McLeish) that emphasizes the complex psychology of Medea, which is usually thought to be a simple scorned-woman tale. For Udovicki, it was the perfect vehicle to bring out the humanity and the moments of unexpected humor in the play. This production has successfully managed to render her vision to astounding life. The modern staging features music (by Pirayeh Pourafar and Houman Pourmehdi in collaboration with Nigel Osborne) for a masked, chanting female chorus who often move with cat-like precision. They assist in putting the traditional interpretation of the play on its end, rethinking the role of women in the society in which Medea finds herself.

The real star of the show is Annette Bening who plays Medea in a cool, calculated performance that is both moving and chilling at the same time. At times she moves around the sand-filled stage encumbered by the heavily draped gown that seems to weigh her down. Angus MacFadyen’s Jason easily reflects the modern man’s need to climb the corporate ladder, so to speak, to secure his family’s station in society at any cost.

The supporting cast includes a superb Mary Lou Rosato as the Corinthian Woman at the opening of the play who fills in the audience on the goings-on between Medea and Jason. The imposing set that includes lots of metal, tall walls and a power line in the background, seemingly remain inert, until the climactic scene that suddenly finds the set come to life as Medea rages.

Very few productions in town have such impact as this production of Medea. Though originally written for an Athenian audience, this play has relevance today, which goes to show that the human heart has gone relatively unchanged for thousands of years.

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About Obed Medina
Obed received his BA in Creative Writing from the University of California at Riverside. He has freelanced and volunteered at various theatre companies in Los Angeles since 2002. He launched his own workshop theatre company in 2008 and has produced six original one-act plays and one Off-Broadway hit. Currently, he is living in Ashland, Oregon working on his writing and founder of Collaborative Theatre Project.

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