BWW Review: CATF NOT MEDEA Is a Deeply Imaginative and Powerful Piece of Theater
The 2016 CATF mission statement lists their vision as "The Ultimate Theater Experience", and Not Medea, one of the five plays in rotating rep at the festival, completely satisfies this expectation. A highly creative and completely immersive theatrical experience, Not Medea is brilliantly written by Allison Gregory and expertly directed by Courtney Sale.
A working mother arrives late to the play you are about to see that evening, and when she discovers the show to be presented is the Greek tragedy, Medea, almost walks out. She gradually opens up to reveal why the character of Medea has had a great personal relevance to her life lately. The plot lines of this woman's own personal tragedy and the infamous Grecian mother and murderess are gradually interwoven as the Woman begins acting out portions of the tragedy Medea onstage with two other actors and reveals to the audience the life-altering decisions and struggles involved with becoming a wife and mother.
Parsons is a petite force of nature as the lead character, the Woman. With the constant poise and natural grace of a dancer, she displays an entire range of emotions, from witty and easy going to viscerally tormented in the depths of despair. Her entrance in the show is spectacular and the first portion of the show, where she does nothing but interact with Audience members in the intricate theatrical space displays her improvisational skills and impressive instant rapport with a different audience each night.
Ben Chase portrays a very sexy and confident Jason, who shows an incredible contrast from a carefree, charming boy to a complex and aggressive man and royal ruler. He and Parsons had an exceptional sexual chemistry.
Rachael Balcanoff as the Chorus excellently portrayed a pixie-like, fragile and otherworldly character, meant to represent both the child characters and the typical chorus figures in Greek tragedies. Balcanoff had some lovely dramatic and comedic moments and was adorably awkward at times.
Not Medea is a distinctively unique theatrical experience. One of the lead characters is, quite literally, in the audience and in your face for a large portion of the show. The characters frequently step off the stage and are often only inches from Audience members. Combined with the intense subject matter of the show, the experience is highly personal and will most likely make more conservative Audience members uncomfortable.
Effects in the small theatrical space, ranging from onstage rain to a small pond of water to interactions with a live bird, are incredible. The set design, by Jesse Dreikosen, is simple yet highly stylized, with only a bed, a chair, night table and small pool of water designed as a pond onstage. The lighting, designed by John Ambrosone, starkly contrasts sections of the show and vividly displays emotional moments and moments of action in hues of red.
Not Medea continues to run as one of the five plays in rotating repertory at the Contemporary American Theater Festival. Not Medea performances occur in CCA 112 on the campus of Shepherd University in Shepherdstown, WV. If you do not want to personally interact with any actors or possibly be splashed with water, do not request seats in the front row. The final performance occurs July 31 at 4:30 PM. For more information about the show schedule, the 2016 season or to order tickets, please visit www.catf.org.
Photo Credit: CATF Media Gallery