Mamaí Theatre Company’s Inaugural Production “Medea” is Haunting and Fearless
By Marjorie Preston
New Cleveland Heights-based theater company Mamaí has brought as its inaugural production the U.S. Premiere of Brendan Kennelly’s translation of “Medea” by Euripides. This production of “Medea” is dark, fearless and haunting.
Medea (Tracee Patterson) is betrayed by her husband Jason (Jason Kaufman), when he beds another woman, princess Glauce, the daughter of King Creon (Robert Hawkes). Patterson is powerful as the grieving, forsaken wife facing exile from King Creon’s land, making her a lonely refugee. This prospect, coupled with her shock at her husband’s broken oath, sends her reeling into hatred.
Medea’s vengefulness doesn’t stop at anger toward her husband or his new bride-to-be. The mother of two makes plans to kill the princess with poison. Her poison also kills the king. Knowing the authorities will come for her, and fearing the way her daughters will be treated when the scandal breaks, and perhaps extending her revenge to the people her husband loves most of all, she murders her own children (Grace Hoy and Julia Ashkettle) in cold blood. “Nobody on this earth will call me weak,” Medea insists.
Patterson is riveting and her Medea is multifaceted, by turns stunned, cold, proud, consumed by hatred and deeply hurt. She communicates sly looks to the audience and embodies cunning during the scene where she is selecting a weapon. Kaufman deftly shifts from an arrogant liar to a broken, destroyed man.
The supporting cast carry their parts deftly. A lovely comic relief comes from Sarah Doody as a naïve, mouth breathing barista obsessed with moderation like some sort of new age cult.
Director Bernadette Clemens has assembled a fiercely talented cast that, coupled with the fresh script, breathe new and stinging life into this tragedy. Set Designer Trad Burns has covered the stage with AstroTurf, practical for catching fluids, and bedecked the set with simple pieces like the picket fence and plant boxes of a homestead or cafe tables and chairs of a Starbucks. Set changes are quick and punctuated with dances from cast members.
Whether Medea has gone mad is for the audience to decide. Her murders are cold and vicious, and yet it’s hard not to feel she achieved payback in a way her husband never anticipated. Euripides writes about a murderer and asks us to see her as a victim. Kennelly’s update of “Medea” is bold and substantive, and the production is populated with talented actors.
“Medea” runs through June 30, Thursday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2:30 p.m. at 2843 Washington Boulevard, Cleveland Heights in residence on Ensemble Theatre’s main stage. For tickets, call (216) 570-3403 or visit www.mamaitheatreco.org. The play contains adult language and themes.