What’s it about?
Medea is the story of a wife and mother who has been gravely wronged by the man she loves more than life itself.
What'd I experience?
In the window of the nondescript Gene Frankel Theatre stands a brightly lit poster for Medea, a modern production of the Greek tragedy by Euripides. From the poster smiles to me the face responsible for my being here tonight. A brown, femme face with dark brown eyes, full lips, and a wide nose. A face like mine.
In the theatre’s lobby I see no other faces like mine among the other people waiting for the house to open. A group of older women look at me in a way that makes me feel like I don’t belong there. I smile at them to diffuse my discomfort, but they don’t smile back.
When the house opens I’m one of the last people to get inside and to my surprise nearly every seat is taken except the ones lining the performance area. I sit down in one of them feeling a little anxious at the prospect of being so close to the action on a day when I’ve been feeling too distant to even speak to anyone.
I sit there silently, patiently waiting for the woman from the poster, for Medea, to come out. Soon nearly every seat in the theatre is occupied and the lights turn off briefly as the audience is transported to ancient Greece.
When the lights return, a woman walks out to the middle of the stage, but she is not Medea. She introduces herself as Medea’s nurse and gives an overview of the situation: Medea’s husband Jason has betrayed her by leaving her for a young Greek princess. Medea, who is neither Greek nor as young, is devastated. From her family to her body she gave up everything for this man, but he has just discarded her and now she’s being banished from the city of Corinth as if she did something wrong. Offstage, Medea wails in sorrow.
When Medea finally comes out, my eyes are glued to her. Her head is adorned with the kind of jewelry that my mother wore on her wedding night and she looks less like a woman who has been defeated than a woman who will have her revenge. She doesn’t speak, she only yells to makes her pain known. Initially I feel a little annoyed – why does the brown woman always have to be portrayed as hysterical and out of control? But soon another part of me is strangely excited by this as I realize that no one is trying to quiet Medea or silence her rage – why aren’t more brown women shown angry in this way? Why aren’t more of us allowed the space to yell, to be angry out of our minds, to not be questioned or dismissed?
Soon enough, the cause of all of Medea’s pain comes to the stage. I can’t help but roll my eyes at Jason, a wholly unremarkable man, as he stands before the ethereal Medea telling her that she’s just a crazy woman, that she would be nowhere without him. What a misogynistic, ungrateful, and manipulative man-child. His condescending and belittling tone rings in my ears as all too familiar and I just want Medea to FUCK. HIM. UP.
But Medea knows it’s not so simple. Medea is smart. She takes her time and devises a plan. She leads everyone to believe that she has come to terms with Jason’s betrayal and then - BAM - she kills his new princess and the king, effectively ruining Jason’s life.
While I generally try to resolve my problems diplomatically and without death, I find myself feeling no sympathy at all for Jason or the others. Sure, it’s a little petty of Medea to just kill her husband’s bride-to-be, but what else is one supposed to do in ancient Greece?
Walking out of the theatre, I don’t know if Medea ever faces consequences for her actions and I don't really care. All I know is that in her final scene Medea appears to have found some peace and I realize that sometimes when you’ve been hurt you just have to let the goddess within you fuck some shit up so you can heal. :-)