By Tulis McCall
As my audience mate opened his program his first response was, “There is no character named Medea,” which might have told us both something.
This Medea at BAM is a spare production. Simon Stone has taken a page out of Ivo van Hove’s playbook and stripped the story down to an infinite white space (design by Bob Cousins) punctuated by the characters who live in it. Anna (Rose Byrne) is being released from some psychiatric hospital that is unnamed. We know the type of institution because we soon learn that the reason she was in the clink was that she was discovered to be poisoning her husband in retribution for his affair with another, much younger, woman. Lucas (Bobby Cannavale) is on hand to fetch his wife, but willing to do little more than that.
Anna, it is clear from the very first moments, is on another page entirely. Why not pick up where they left off, sans the poisoning part of course, and be a happy family with their two boys Edgar (Gabriel Amoroao) and Gus (Emeka Guindo). Why not let’s just do that?
The rest of the tale is devoted to the “why not” part of the equation. Lucas and Clara (Madeline Weinstein) are a real thing. And on the off chance that something could stop that, Clara’s father Christopher (Dylan Baker) is also the man who runs the research company where Lucas works. His daughter’s happiness is second only to his own, and Lucas is put on notice of same.
As Lucas and Clara solidify their relationship, Anna is hung out to dry. She has no friends that we can see. She has no guidance. She has no support group. She has nothing. The ropes tethering her to the earth are snipped and she is left on her own to float off and far away. On her way out she takes a few treasured folks with her. This happens as slowly and effortlessly as a series of breaths. The characters are brushstrokes, and the actors given little depth to plum.
What is missing, and perhaps this is on purpose, is the terror and the panic of it all. I saw Fiona Shaw in a production of Medea at the Donmar Warehouse in 2001. Nearly 20 years later I still remember the essence of this woman. Medea was trapped like a wild animal. Betrayed by her husband, who has chosen to marry the daughter of a king, she has been stripped of her life. Being in that state, her choices are reckless and wild. One thing escalates into another, and when the point of no return is crossed we were dragged through it.
I felt none of that urgency watching this production. I was interested but never concerned. As sad a story as this is, I remained outside. An observer, uninvolved. Not, I suspect, the effect desired by the creative team.
Medea Written by Simon Stone after Euripides; Directed by Simon Stone
WITH Victor Almanzar (Herbert), Gabriel Amoroso and Jolly Swag (Edgar), Dylan Baker (Christopher), Jordan Boatman (Elsbeth) Rose Byrne (Anna), Bobby Cannavale (Lucas), Emeka Guindo and Orson Hong (Gus), Madeline Weinstein (Clara)
Set by Bob Cousins, Lighting by Sarah Johnson, Costumes by An D’Huys. Produced by BAM, International Theater Amsterdam and David Lan. Through February 23. Run-in time 90 minutes. For tickets click HERE.