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BWW Review: MEDEA at Augustana University Theatre

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Running through November 14th

BWW Review: MEDEA at Augustana University Theatre

The classic Greek tragedy Medea, presented by Augustana University Theatre had some nice theatrical moments and visual pictures. I was pleased by the presentation of the set with its stonework dais centered on the stage and large columns ascending, giving the audience the feel of being in a cavernous space.

The use of various textures of greenery in pottery and the striking red color of the Anemones cascading from a wall were the natural elements that finished the space quite nicely. My first thought at seeing the flowers was that they were present to denote the blood to be spilled in this very tragic tale of a woman going off the rails. The Wet Nurse portrayed by Carlie Terrall did a masterful job of setting the stage by relaying the events that had led to the opening moments of the play. Her ability to clearly and emotionally provide the exposition necessary with precise diction and appropriate pause for dramatic effect, all the while keeping a consistent pace to pull the audience into the events about to transpire was polished to a fine sheen.

The appearance of the Tutor played by Dresden Walkins brought another dramatic layer to the scene and the interactions between the characters were appropriately intense to what was transpiring behind the scenes. I appreciated the varied vocal qualities and intensity of the Circle of Sacred Dancers and found myself most mesmerized by the softer vocal tones that seemed to project the more sincere emotional intents. The louder voices in the group, made it harder to connect or engage in their emotional entreaty.

The offstage railings of Medea were loud enough to hear, but I didn't feel they were enough for me to believe I was hearing her inner rage or the torment she was feeling at the betrayal of Jason. When Tatiana Chance as Medea finally entered the scene, her physical business was far too genteel to suit me. I was able to tune out what she was saying for a good amount of time and admire her costume, which was truly beautiful. Ms. Chance had a mastery of the words in the script, but the intensity of the character's mental instability was not present.

Speaking loudly and stamping your feet, but for the most part keeping a beautiful posture and noble bearing didn't take me to a place where I was truly afraid of her unhinged volatility. I think that to be fair, I would have to say that Ms. Chance has probably never had the personal experiences that would give her the visceral insights to this kind of "crazy", and so this becomes an acting exercise of presenting a script as translated by Richard W. Swanson. I found the translation to be largely accessible to my ear with some notes of more modern vernacular to be amusing in the way they translated to some of the events of the times we live in now.

It's not that I don't believe an actor can portray that kind of pain and rage at a young age, but as a performer, I do believe that life experiences with betrayal would be a necessary component of bringing the character of Medea to a "larger than life" presence.

The performance by Enya Moyer as Creon was quite effective with its emotional intensity and disgust of the character of Medea. Jason as portrayed by Carter Canfield was well spoken and presented a vapid character of a man with little to offer the world other than his predictably selfish bearing. Aigeus as portrayed by Kjersti Olson brought a thoughtful and measured presence on stage. The appearance of Elizabeth Dobbe as the Messenger was a welcome presence as the bearer of horrific details late in Act two as she recounted the deaths of Glauce and Creon with great emotional intensity. Good for you Ms. Dobbe, for bringing your "A" game to an Act Two appearance onstage.

The technical aspects of the show are quite effective and polished. The pre-show music had the proper notes of melancholy; an instrumentation that was haunting and foreboding. The costumes from scarves and headpieces to footwear and tunics were impressively coordinated and constructed.

This production is entered in the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival and will have four more performances at the mainstage of Augustana University.


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