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BWW Review: 3rd Act's MEDUSA UNDONE is a Powerful Work of Art

Medusa Undone is a powerful portrayal of assault and its aftermath.

BWW Review: 3rd Act's MEDUSA UNDONE is a Powerful Work of Art

Bella Poynton's Medusa Undone is an origin story about one of Greek mythology's most feared sea monsters. 3rd Act presents the Oklahoma premiere of this beautiful show with heart and sensitivity. Before she was a terrifying monster, villainized in myth and legend, Medusa was a beautiful, mortal sea nymph. At a time when gods and humans lived together on earth, Medusa comes to Athens, fleeing her sea monster family to pledge loyalty to the goddess Athena. Medusa enters Athena's court, beginning training to become a High Priestess. She's soon befriended by Poseidon, a haughty and cruel god who rules the Sea.

Poseidon humiliates Medusa when they first meet. But she forgives him, and after several scenes of friendship and playful teasing, Poseidon's true nature finally comes out. When Medusa refuses Poseidon's advances, he attacks her and hits her. He then drags her off-stage and assaults her. This scene of sexual violence is portrayed with voices only. It's not shown on stage, and this is a smart choice. It maintains the safety of the actors and the mental health of everyone involved or watching. To show it would be graphic and gratuitous. 3rd Act has also provided multiple trigger warnings at the top of the show, so the audience is prepared. The YWCA is present in the back of the house for every performance, offering information and assistance for anyone who needs it.

It's tough to watch and listen to, but even tougher is the aftermath. Medusa is brutally attacked by someone she considers her friend. It's a betrayal of her body and mind, and she's left to take on the blame of the attack. The response from every character who learns of the assault continues to be "Poseidon is a god. What did you expect?" This serves as the "Boys will be boys" through-line of rape culture that is perpetuated even today in our society.

There's a special kind of praise deserved by the two actors portraying Medusa and Poseidon. Tiffany Tuggle and Keegan Zimmerman are both professional, top-notch performers in the OKC area, but these roles are like nothing anyone has ever seen them in. They're mentally and physically challenging, and they must be harder to do than any "regular" show.

3rd Act Theatre Company, production director Kris Kuss, and Intimacy Choreographer Amanda Rose Villarreal have created a safe space for these artists, complete with careful choreography and mental separation exercises. This ensures the artists are able to commit to this deeply moving and important work. This scene and the fallout that ensues are not easy to get through, and artists need safe spaces to be able to do this and similar shows correctly and sensitively.

Tiffany Tuggle is lovely as Medusa. She portrays a character who is innocent and strong. She's loyal to Athena and wants nothing more than to win her favor. But the gods are selfish, cruel, and arrogant. None of them are kind to Medusa. Tuggle as Medusa is gracious and loving. She never loses hope or her desire to be loved. She's a glowing presence onstage, graceful and kind and truly beautiful. It's with great effort that anyone takes their eyes off of her for even a moment. On display here is a moving performance from one of Oklahoma City's best performers. She's perfectly cast, and there's nobody who could've portrayed Medusa better.

Keegan Zimmerman is breath-taking as Poseidon. He's cold and cruel, heartless and chilling. Zimmerman is normally warm and funny, and nothing of his usual persona is seen on stage. He's wholly someone different, and the effect is spine-tingling. Zimmerman is a villain in every sense of the word. He does his job effectively and marvelously. His anger is palpable, his arrogance visible, and he provokes the full range of emotions in his audience.

Zimmerman and Tuggle together are absolute perfection. They're everything this play needs, and nobody who witnesses this show will look at either one of them the same again. These performances should win awards. There is no way to say enough about the important and beautiful work they've done here.

Kat Adams is stunning as Athena. The goddess is strict and demanding, and proves herself to be unforgiving. Jealous of Medusa's beauty and bitter that she holds Poseidon's attentions, Athena shows no sympathy for Medusa. This serves to further devastate Medusa. Athena essentially re-traumatizes Medusa, cursing her with snakes in place of her beautiful hair and turning her eyes into weapons. This means that nobody can look at Medusa without being turned to stone, but it also means that she can't get close to anyone she loves.

Adams is always a solid and enjoyable performer to watch, with a range of abilities and an aptitude for ambiguity. For this show, however, Adams has brought a new level of intensity not yet seen before. This is her best performance yet, and there's undoubtedly more where that came from.

Allyson Rose is Stheno, Medusa's sister and another source of pain for Medusa. Rose is striking on stage, geared up in war paint and battle dress. Stheno carries guilt for how she's treated Medusa in the past, and tries to get her to return to their family. Rose is gritty and strong. She makes Stheno into a sympathetic character, relatable despite her flaws.

Christine Jolly is Echo, a Seer and Oracle of Athena's realm. Echo is also Medusa's only true friend. When Medusa becomes cursed and enraged, she sends Echo away to protect her. This is devastating to Echo, who loves Medusa as Medusa loves Athena. Jolly is a breath of fresh air. She's ethereal and angelic, clad in white and imparting kind and helpful wisdom when Medusa needs it most. Jolly also packs a punch, delivering some of the best lines to Poseidon and speaking some of the rage that the entire audience feels. She quite literally echoes the emotions of those around her.

Some shows just simply cannot be talked or written about enough. They absolutely need to be witnessed. Yes, there are triggers, but it's worth it to not let that deter you. I whole-heartedly hope everyone who enjoys theatre will see this show while you can. If you see it and it doesn't affect you, your heart simply isn't beating.

* * *

The Oklahoma premiere of Medusa Undone runs until April 24th, 2021. A streaming only performance is available on April 25th. Make every effort that you can to see this show! For tickets, visit 3rdacttheatreco.com.


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From This Author Adrienne Proctor