By Michael “Buzz” Buzzelli, ‘Burgh
In 431 B.C., Euripides shocked theater-goers in Athens with a sympathetic portrayal of one of Greece’s great mythological characters, Medea, a woman who decides to enact vengeance after her husband spurns her for another woman. But playwright Allison Gregory revisits this story in a unique and unusual way in “Not Medea.” Though, Gregory’s story also shocks its audience.
The story is hard to explain without giving away huge swaths of the plot, but a Woman (Drew Leigh), who is definitely not Medea, enters the theater and settles into her seat, excited to see the play, until she realizes what she’s about to see.
Hail the conquering hero!
Jason (Allan Snyder), returns to his hometown of Corinth with his “barbarian” wife after capturing the Golden Fleece. We get the “Behind the Music” version of the Homeric tale, and it isn’t pretty. The leader of the Argonauts isn’t the courageous captain of those Ray Harryhausen movies (in Dynamation).
Medea tells her tale. While the Woman in the audience intrudes with her own tragic tale. The Greek Chorus (Elizabeth Boyke) wails and shrieks. Is she merely the chorus? Does she know she’s in a play? It gets weird, if fun and fantastic ways.
When the Woman starts texting her ex (also named Jason), the texts get metatextual, and the events of 431 B.C. and events in the present get very, very blurry.
“Not Medea” is a theatrical Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, it starts riotously funny and ends in Hell thanks to Gregory’s meta manuscript.
Side Note: Seriously, the Disney ride starts as a whimsical drive through a magical land and ends up in frightening hellish landscape. It’s pretty twisted.
The actors excel under Allison Weakland’s direction. Apparently, it takes two talented Allison’s put on a terrific play.
Leigh is marvelous in her (still a secret) role. She commands the stage. She is bright and beautiful, harried and horrifying. Sliding up and down a scale of varying emotions.
Snyder’s character is comical and cartoonish, but some additional layers are peeled back by the end. He does a great job.
Boyke takes on several roles as the Chorus, and she does it with aplomb.
All the action is carried out on a beautiful set by Adrienne Fischer who produces spectacular scenes on shoestring budgets.
Sapphire and cerulean scarves drape over the set, creating the warm blue feeling of the Grecian isles. A king-sized bed, layered with pillows, encompasses the stage. It’s the focal point for a reason. Off to the side, a bird tweets in a gilded cage. It’s later accidentally strangled by the hero because he doesn’t know his own power (METAPHOR).
Kim Brown recreates Athenian fashion with Allan and Elizabeth’s costumes. The Woman’s costume is a maroon unisex pullover scrub top and matching drawstring pants.
“Not Medea” runs until October 18th at the Carnegie Stage, 25 West Main Street, Carnegie, PA 15106. For more information, click here.