By Ilaria Cutolo
Medea On Media directed by Kim Hyuntak and the Seongbukdong Beedoolkee Theatre Company, presented by The Korean Cultural Center New York, invites audiences on a journey through the many channels of modern media through a deconstructed take on Euripides’ classic tragedy Medea. We are tossed into a kaleidoscope of images and sounds beginning with a press junket and the notorious and glamourous Medea, played by spit-fire, powerhouse Kim Miok, seducing the press. Then onto a smack-down talk show where Media fearlessly confronts her betrayer husband Jason and his mistress, and we the audience engage in the boos, oohs, and awws a la a Jerry Springer show. Next was a comical rendition of Medea being ostracized by King Creon in what amounts to an over-the-top soap opera melodrama. Scenes change seamlessly within a minimalist stark black stage allowing for the focus to be on the performers. I was a little distracted at first by the quick costume changes taking place on stage left after each scene, but they soon became incorporated elegantly as with the prop changes. Every scene is performed as if we are an audience member engaged in various forms of media at their most extreme. There’s even a mechanical performance of a violent video game that made audience members chuckle. A glamoured-up Medea sends us out with a cabaret number a la a variety show with glitz and glam. There’s even a rapid-paced performance of cartoon characters as seen through a voice-over set (actors wearing cartoon character masks ) making this a dizzying display of modern media meets classic Greek tragedy.
Medea’s hell-bent rage is visceral and feels somehow relevant in our overly saturated modern media-entrenched times. This classic play adapted by Hyuntak explores how one person can be transformed through a medium such as ours into both a monster and a victim and how said monster-victim can be made into a media star seemingly overnight. This theater company rides the line between the real and the fantastical and I think they ride that line well. The acting was big and at times chaotic but a controlled chaos at that.
My only issue with the entire production was the placement of the supertitle screens on the far right and far left of the stage. I felt I had to sacrifice some of the stage performance in order to read the dialogue and vice versa. I understand that it may have been the only option, but perhaps tweaking this technical aspect will help with international performances.
I was fortunate to have caught this over the weekend as it was a limited engagement at the NYU Skirball. The SBT Company’s NYC debut brings us something experimental, fresh, and silly while exploring a heavy and timely topic. Who knew Medea could be so much fun? For more information about the company visit: https://nyuskirball.org/digital-program-medea-media/ and https://www.koreanculture.org/.
Medea On Media, AUTHOR: Euripides
ADAPTION, DIRECTION, CHOREOGRAPHY, STAGING, PROPS, COSTUMES AND DÉCOR, AND SONG CURATION: Kim Hyuntak
MUSIC: Various artists
TECHNICAL DIRECTOR: Suh Jiwon
ASSISTANT DIRECTOR: Hwang Dongwoo
ARTISTIC MANAGER: Kwag Younghyun
LIGHTING DIRECTOR: Hong Juhee
Cast: Kim Miok, Lee Jinsung, Kim Namhyun, Choi Haneul, Kwag Younghyun, Choi Minhyeok, Hyun Seungil, Jung Seohyun, and Park Seohyeon.
Running time: 80 min. (no intermission)