TheatreLAB’s Cellar Series offers ‘Medea Myth,’ superb dance/theatre in the raw
Brandon Sterrett leads the concept and creation of Medea Myth, an exploration into the genesis of the Medea-Jason relationship. The piece has no words, but rather is expressed through movement and expression of the players aided by a musical score, a complicated sound design, shadow acting and projections. It is a 45 minute piece. Not solely dance, not solely theater, not solely ritual. It is a combination of all three.
This slice of the story has to do with Jason and Medea obtaining, with the help of some Argonauts, a certain golden fleece. In order to show off the “A minus” I received in Greek Mythology, I offer a ridiculously abbreviated version:
Jason shows up in his hometown of Iolcus to demand that his wicked uncle Pelias return the throne to him, the rightful heir. Pelias stole the throne from Jason’s father, Aeson. King Pelias says, “Sure, no problemo. But first you have to sail to the distant land of Colchis and fetch the Golden Fleece. Which no one’s ever done before.”
Jason and his band of merry men have many dangerous adventures. Hera, queen of the gods wants Eros, the prince of love, to make Medea, King Aeëtes’s daughter, fall in love with Jason. Medea is just the person to help Jason, since she just happens to be a skilled sorceress, straight out of Ravenclaw. The sorceress sees Jason and falls so in love that she’s willing to do anything for him—even kill her own family.
Medea helps Jason fight some fire-breathing oxen, and then fight an army of powerful warriors who erupt from the dirt. Last of all, Jason has to face the dragon that guards the Golden Fleece. As Jason enters the grove of the Golden Fleece, the dragon roars and almost swallows Jason whole. Yikes!
Right at the last moment, Jason sprays the serpent in the face with a sleeping potion, courtesy of Medea. As the monster starts to snooze, Jason grabs the Golden Fleece, and with Medea and the Argonauts in tow, he makes a break for the Argo, his ship.
Sterrett’s Medea Myth begins with the ship is tossed. Two players representing the elements (or as they are billed “naturals”) create the storm, become the fire, morph into trees and other versions of natural elements. Two of the Argonauts, one meaty and the other frail end up washed ashore and have a good old Shakespearean time dealing with the annoying elements (or more appropriately Shakespeare’s “Tempest” has a good old Greek time). Medea and Jason fight the powerful warrior who holds the fleece and ultimately overpower him. They are now free to sail home and murder her family who follows them.
This was a wonderful respite from reviewing talky plays. These performers were superior dancers, their swift, clean movements obviously choreographed with precision. They were excellent storytellers. At no time did I not know what was going on. Even if you didn’t get an “A minus” in Greek Mythology, I think you’d be able to follow the story.
It was like watching a silent movie. The acting was strong, if not always subtle. There was glorious stage combat. There was slapstick comedy and tender love. Best of all, it was concise. Not a wasted moment. At the end of the 45 minutes the audience didn’t move for several minutes, hoping that there was more, even after the curtain calls.
Mitchell Cole and Aiden Orr played Jason and Medea. The “naturals” were Courtney Hans and Cullen Thieman. The Argonauts were Connor Haggerty and Dion Torres. Jahred King and Joseph Mayes rounded out the cast. They were all superb. They melded as an ensemble. They all made the most of their tasks and worked very hard to achieve it. Singling any one of them is to tear the fabric of the whole. They bowed together and so shall they be praised.
Robbie Kinter’s original music was electric. Since there is no sound designer credited, I will credit Mr. Kinter there as well. Complicated and intricately layered, the aural experience matched the visual one splendidly aided by Ashley Sweiger’s light and shadow design.
Theater is so much more than talk. When done right it is mostly experiential. I give mad props to TheatreLAB for being the one company in town brave enough to let the artist sing, for searching out and hosting the best that our city has to offer. They may be housed in a basement but they ascend to the Heavens of the Gods by producing such fine and eclectic work. My audience was filled with students. The regular theater goers of Richmond need to broaden their education and experience this fine work while it’s still available to be seen.
Medea Myth runs now through March 26th at TheatreLAB’s The Basement, you can snag tickets here.
It more largely illuminates how hard it can be to forge both a satisfying career and a fulfilling personal life in an era that seems to demand superhuman achievement from everyone.September 19, 2016
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