‘Medea’ at Mobtown Players by Amanda Gunther

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THREE AND A HALF STARS
Here’s looking at you, kid. Or maybe just a stroll down Hollywood and Vine will get you in the mood for this 1930’s adaptation of Euripides’ Medea. Harking back to the golden age of film with all its polish and flare, The Mobtown Players present this posh makeover of a tragic Greek classic, Directed by Melissa O’Brien. There’s glamour and tragedy all wound up into one epic stage event that gives you a new spin on the bloody drama of the banished woman.

Aegeus (Steven Shriner) and Medea (Rachael Rash). Photo courtesy of Mobtown Players.
Aegeus (Steven Shriner) and Medea (Rachael Rash). Photo courtesy of Mobtown Players.

Set Designer Marshall B Garrett uses colors, first and foremost, to rekindle the flame of a time long since past. The bright gold, fiery orange, and hints of pink, red, and black set the stage ablaze in a brilliant gilded glory. The painted detail of the walls complete with ancient goddess symbols and zodiac symbols is truly enthralling. The set itself is a bit whimsical with its tiered steps and many entrances, the stone dais painted into the center of the stage a unique detail that serves to unify all of the busy themes that are twined into the overall concept.

Costume Designer Marla Parker hits her mark in nearly every outfit she creates. The dresses and tight-tailored pants suit for Medea are the epitome of the classy actresses of the 1930s. Crisp pressed suits of jet black and pinstripe tailor Creon and Aegeus to fit the times. Parker even dresses Jason in a fancy white suit that rings homage to the great Jay Gatsby. The one disconnected slip-up that Parker makes is in outfitting the chorus. While a few of the dresses seem era appropriate, the large shapeless floral print dresses stand out in an awkwardly garish fashion that just don’t blend with all the other period pieces.

The chorus is, unfortunately, the most problematic portion of the show. Ill-directed, the group of five girls ends up creating more distractions than anything else. There are moments when they are meant to be in the background, trying to be funny as they spy on Medea and Aegeus, and their background actions are played absurdly over-the-top in a most unflattering scene-stealing manner. When they are often meant to be silently pantomiming chatting to one another you can hear their harsh whispers, made up words, and inappropriate comments. They also disrupt the best part of the performance; the silent film. Filtering into the house as a part of the movie-going audience, their heckling and commentary that is heard throughout the 20-minute picture is as obnoxious, rude, and disruptive as normal patrons talking during a performance and distracts terribly from the cinematic brilliance pushed into the movie by Video Director Joshua Singer. They also lack synchronization for their movement based dances, choreographed by Movement Director Caitlin Bouxsein. There are two moments of ‘dance’ that occur between scenes, or at the conclusion of scenes, that just look awkward and out of place. And on top of all that the chorus seems to be disharmoniously hung up on whether or not to emote during their text. Some members of the chorus go to melodramatic extremes, while others simply deliver their lines, making for a mixed jumble of confusing words that really does not do the other actors or Euripides’ text justice.

Creon (Will Carson). Photo courtesy of Mobtown Players.
Creon (Will Carson). Photo courtesy of Mobtown Players.

But there is one bright light – Evangeline Ridgaway, who doubles in the show as a haunted Chanteuse, singing a woeful song of mourning that is the epitome of the action that is about to unfold on the stage. Ridgaway knows her place and has just the right balance of emotional feeling in her facial expressions and in her limited dialogue as a member of the Greek chorus. Her singing voice is stunning in a dark and brooding manner, providing a haunted feel by the time she finishes her song.

Overall, Director Melissa O’Brien has a great concept for this show, which she developed along with collaborator Tara Cariaso. The most brilliant thing they achieve is the seamless fusion of the black and white silent film, A Flock of Sorrows, starring Medea. The video is of a stellar quality and is executed in the slightly grainy filmed fashion of the early silent films, complete with heavy dialogue, over-the-top acting for emotional delivery, and extremely corny special effects. Film Director Joshua Singer has a keen sense of how to direct both Medea and Jason in this 20-minute segment, making it the most impressive bit of the production overall.

Jason (Brian S. Kraszewski) is an absolute slime that you cannot help but hate by the time he arrives on the scene. Even during his scenes of mourning and grief at the end of the production Kraszewski is flirting and eyeing up his next potential among the chorus women in an unctuous manner that makes your skin crawl. His desperation in his final plea is raw and honest, despite his previous attempts at philandering. Kraszewski is cold and standoffish when he plays directly in scene against Medea, as you might expect of a man who has just married a younger prettier princess.

Aegeus (Steven Shriner) though only encountered briefly in the first act, makes a lingering impression on the audience with his suave stage presence and svelte appearance. Cut neatly in his pinstripe suit, he’s a slick gentleman on the sly, his facial expressions and vocal tonality really grounding his character in that charming wheeling-n-dealing sort of business man of the time. His interactions with Medea are genteel despite his slightly slippery nature. The solid swoop of confidence that flows from his voice to his smile makes him a truly attractive character even if he’s seen and gone just moments later.

The show-stealer, in the best way possible, is Creon (Will Carson). Again, only encountered momentarily, Carson makes his presence so well felt that it feels like he’s been involved the whole time. Carson truly understands how to manipulate the words of Euripides’ text in his delivery, twisting their sound into a style that makes his character astonishing. Embodying and channeling the godfather, his voice is a harsh whisper that is more frightening than any shouting ever could be, as he delivers his ultimatum to Medea; an offer of exile that she simply cannot refuse. Every great Bugsy Malone-style gangster that ever prowled the streets of New York, Chicago, and LA, are rolling through Carson’s veins in his moment on stage; a tried and true character moment that makes his performance both gratifying and intense.

Rachael Rash, in the principle role, is a deeply dynamic actress able to bring the multitude of layers that the character of Medea requires in order to be a success. Aside from the fact that she paints a stunning picture, poised and polished into each of those outrageously delicious 1930’s outfits, her emotions are top notch. Quick changing from fury and scorn the likes of which hell hath no, to the soul-searing sorrow of what her children might suffer at her own hand, Rash delivers a phenomenal rendition of this classic tragic woman. Her fixed gazes outward to the audience at times are so intense that you find yourself squirming in the seat; a testament not only to her madness but her commitment to the character. Rash is every bit the Hollywood rage in this role, and delivers Euripides’ a great deal of justice with her performance.

Running Time: Approximately Two hours, with one 15 minute intermission.

Medea plays through June 23, 2013 at The Mobtown Theatre at Meadow Mill – 3600 Clipper Mill Road, Suite 114, in Baltimore, MD. Tickets can be purchased at the door or in advance

Here’s looking at you, kid. Or maybe just a stroll down Hollywood and Vine will get you in the mood for this 1930’s adaptation of Euripides’ Medea. Harking back to the golden age of film with all its polish and flare, The Mobtown Players present this posh makeover of a tragic Greek classic, Directed by Melissa O’Brien. There’s glamour and tragedy all wound up into one epic stage event that gives you a new spin on the bloody drama of the banished woman.

Set Designer Marshall B Garrett uses colors, first and foremost, to rekindle the flame of a time long since past. The bright gold, fiery orange, and hints of pink, red, and black set the stage ablaze in a brilliant gilded glory. The painted detail of the walls complete with ancient goddess symbols and zodiac symbols is truly enthralling. The set itself is a bit whimsical with its tiered steps and many entrances, the stone dais painted into the center of the stage a unique detail that serves to unify all of the busy themes that are twined into the overall concept.

Costume Designer Marla Parker hits her mark in nearly every outfit she creates. The dresses and tight-tailored pants suit for Medea are the epitome of the classy actresses of the 1930’s. Crisp pressed suits of jet black and pinstripe tailor Creon and Aegeus to fit the times. Parker even dresses Jason in a fancy white suit that rings homage to the great Jay Gatsby. The one disconnected slip-up that Parker makes is in outfitting the chorus. While a few of the dresses seem era appropriate, the large shapeless floral print dresses stand out in an awkwardly garish fashion that just don’t blend with all the other period pieces.

The chorus is, unfortunately, the most problematic portion of the show. Ill-directed, the group of five girls ends up creating more distractions than anything else. There are moments when they are meant to be in the background, trying to be funny as they spy on Medea and Aegeus, and their background actions are played absurdly over the top in a most unflattering scene-stealing manner. When they are often meant to be silently pantomiming chatting to one another you can hear their harsh whispers, made up words, and inappropriate comments. They also disrupt the best part of the performance; the silent film. Filtering into the house as a part of the movie-going audience, their heckling and commentary that is heard throughout the 20 minute picture is as obnoxious, rude, and disruptive as normal patrons talking during a performance and distracts terribly from the cinematic brilliance pushed into the movie by video director Joshua Singer.

Unfortunately the girls in the chorus lack synchronization for their movement based dances, choreographed by Movement Director Caitlin Bouxsein. There are two moments of ‘dance’ that occur between scenes, or at the conclusion of scenes, that just look awkward and out of place. And on top of all that the chorus seems to be disharmoniously hung up on whether or not to emote during their text. Some members of the chorus go to melodramatic extremes, while others simply deliver their lines, making for a mixed jumble of confusing words that really does not do the other actors or Euripides’ text justice.

The exception to chorus calamity is  Evangeline Ridgaway, who doubles in the show as a haunted Chanteuse, singing a woeful song of mourning that is the epitome of the action that is about to unfold on the stage. Ridgaway knows her place and has just the right balance of emotional feeling in her facial expressions and in her limited dialogue as a member of the Greek chorus. Her singing voice is stunning in a dark and brooding manner, really leaving the audience with a haunted feel by the time she finishes her song.

8735473674_76f5e8ba94Overall Director Melissa O’Brien has a great concept for this show, which she developed along with co-conspirator Tara Cariaso. The most brilliant thing they achieve is the seamless fusion of the black and white silent film, A Flock of Sorrows, starring Medea. The video is of a stellar quality and is executed in the slightly grainy filmed fashion of the early silent films, complete with heavy dialogue, over-the-top acting for emotional delivery, and extremely corny special effects. Film Director Joshua Singer has a keen sense of how to direct both Medea and Jason in this 20 minute segment, making it the most impressive bit of the production overall.

Jason (Brian S. Kraszewski) is an absolute slime that you cannot help but hate by the time he arrives on the scene. Even during his scenes of mourning and grief at the end of the production Kraszewski is flirting and eyeing up his next potential among the chorus women in an unctuous manner that makes your skin crawl. His desperation in his final plea is raw and honest, despite his previous attempts at philandering. Kraszewski is cold and standoffish when he plays directly in scene against Medea, as you might expect of a man who has just married a younger prettier princess.

Aegeus (Steven Shriner) though only encountered briefly in the first act, makes a lingering impression on the audience with his suave stage presence and svelte appearance. Cut neatly in his pinstripe suit, he’s a slick gentleman on the sly, his facial expressions and vocal tonality really grounding his character in that charming wheeling-n-dealing sort of business man of the time. His interactions with Medea are genteel despite his slightly slippery nature. The solid swoop of confidence that flows from his voice to his smile makes him a truly attractive character even if he’s seen and gone just moments later.

The show-stealer, in the best way possible, is Creon (Will Carson). Again, only encountered momentarily, Carson makes his presence so well-felt that it feels like he’s been involved the whole time. Carson truly understands how to manipulate the words of Euripides’ text in his delivery, twisting their sound into a style that makes his character astonishing. Embodying and channeling the godfather, his voice is a harsh whisper that is more frightening than any shouting ever could be, as he delivers his ultimatum to Medea; an offer of exile that she simply cannot refuse. Every great Bugsy Malone style gangster that ever prowled the streets of New York, Chicago, and LA, are rolling through Carson’s veins in his moment on stage; a tried and true character moment that makes his performance both gratifying and intense.

Rachael Rash, in the principle role, is a deeply dynamic actress able to bring the multitude of layers that the character of Medea requires in order to be a success. Aside from the fact that she paints a stunning picture, poised and polished into each of those outrageously delicious 1930’s outfits, her emotions are top notch. Quick changing from fury and scorn the likes of which hell hath no, to the soul-searing sorrow of what her children might suffer at her own hand, Rash delivers a phenomenal rendition of this classic tragic woman. Her fixed gazes outward to the audience at times are so intense that you find yourself squirming in the seat; a testament not only to her madness but her commitment to the character. Rash is every bit the Hollywood rage in this role, and delivers Euripides’ a great deal of justice with her performance.

Running Time: Approximately two hours, with one 15-minute intermission.

Medea plays through June 23, 2013 at The Mobtown Theatre – Meadow Mill 3600 Clipper Mill Road, Suite 114 in Baltimore, MD. Tickets can be purchased at the door or in advance online.

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