As the saying goes, “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.” If there was ever a woman that could make Hades himself run scared back to the underworld, it’s Medea of Greek mythology.
John Carroll University, under the direction of Karen Gygli, brought Medea and her thirst for vengeance to life on the stage this weekend at the Marinello Little Theatre.
Gygli leads a stellar cast of John Carroll students, headed by senior Taylor Nagy as Medea and junior Dan Simpson as Jason of the Argonauts.
The play opens with Medea lamenting the loss of her relationship with Jason, who has left her to marry the daughter of King Creon of Corinth.
In reaction to Jason’s decision, Creon decides that Medea must be banished from Corinth in order to protect himself and his soon to be son-in-law from harm’s way.
Much of the plot revolves around Medea’s deteriorating mental condition and her plans to repay Jason for his unfaithfulness in the worst ways possible.
The entire play takes place within the outer courtyard of Medea and Jason’s home, with visitors coming in and out.
While the play remains faithful to Euripides’ text, Gygli puts her own spin on the tale by placing the characters in the New Mexico desert in 1933. The result is nothing short of spectacular considering the sizable risks involved in moving a play’s setting.
According to Gygli, she chose the setting because Medea’s status as a foreigner in a distant land reminded her of the struggles of those crossing the border and living in the Southwest today. Her ambition pays off, putting a new spin on the classic tale and freshening up the setting.
What will (rightly so) leave audiences talking as they leave the theater is the raw emotion of Nagy as the title character. She toes the line between vulnerability and cunning, never truly letting the audience know from which she acts.
In her final show as a Carroll student, Nagy gives a performance to remember that will resonate with audiences.
Also not to be overlooked is the performance of Nagy’s co-star, Simpson. As Jason, Simpson gives a swagger to the role necessary to play the epic hero (or in this play, the anti-hero).
He carries over the momentum from his lead role in “I Hate Hamlet” to play the perfect foil to Nagy’s Medea.
The chemistry between the pair is what Gygli credits as the main engine for the play and it’s hard to disagree.
“Medea” is a play that depends on the emotional connection between Medea and Jason, and Nagy and Simpson are able to create on-stage tension that finally overflows in the final climactic scene.
The chorus of Corinthian women, led by freshman Nicole Tischler, act as Medea’s conscience in a way as the action develops.
Sophomore Brendan Hancock and Junior Brian Devers appear as Aegeus and Creon, respectively. Freshman Joe Kenner provides a critical storytelling role late in the play that is vital for the audience’s understanding of the events off stage.
One of the more pleasant surprises of the play is the performances of the two youngest cast members, Graham and Sydney Ball. Both perform in the classic tradition of silent children but provide necessary comic relief at times.
“Medea” wraps up its run on April 1 and 2 at 7:30 p.m. and April 3 at 2 p.m. It is a must see for lovers of classic literature as well as those who love a twist on traditional plays.