Outstanding performances, imaginative direction, gorgeous movement, and the most memorable sound-and-lighting design package you’re likely to hear-and-see at this year’s Hollywood Fringe combine to make the West Coast Premiere of Jess Shoemaker’s Jason & (Medea) one of Fringe 2015’s most must-see productions.
As its title suggests, Shoemaker’s one-act (shortened by about 40 minutes from its 2013 Chicago World Premiere) shifts the the classic Greek myth’s focus from its homicidal heroine’s act of filicide to Medea’s passionate romance with the Argonaut-leading, Golden Fleece-seeking Jason, with an emphasis on the latter’s role in her life.
To tell this tale of love, murder, and woe, Shoemaker eschews the ponderous declamatory speeches we associate with Greek tragedy for a more contemporary vernacular, and though her characters’ theorizing about the Universal Law Of Gravitation and Nuclear Whatever flew over this reviewer’s head, the playwright’s approach works. Think of Jason & (Medea) as Sarah Ruhl’s Eurydice without the whimsy.
In addition to its romantic leads (brought to dynamic, compelling life under Beth Lopes’s inspired direction by a striking Paul Culos and a fierce Jessica Pohly), Jason & (Medea) introduces us to Medea’s siblings (a terrifically feisty Josey Montana McCoy as Heller and a commanding Emily A. Fisher as Chalciope) and to the Princess who stole Jason’s heart (a sparkling Josie Adams in Sleeping Beauty Aurora tresses), with King Pelias (McCoy) and Atalanta (Fisher) thrown in for good measure.
Scenic designer Andy Wagner keeps the Theatre Asylum stage deliberately bare, the better to allow sound designer Matt Glenn’s endlessly varied “soundscape” of mood-setting music and effects and Christine Macedo’s vivid, dramatic lighting to work their magic.
Megan Burkart’s contemporary costumes seem to fit Shoemaker’s tale better than the Ancient Greek-wear of its Chicago run, and her props are just right too.
Fisher’s exquisite movement direction comes close to modern dance, and completes the production design to stunning perfection.
Rebecca York and Beth Wallan are stage managers.
One of L.A.’s finest young companies, The Los Angeles New Court Theatre gives us a Jason & (Medea) that is Hollywood Fringe at its un-fringiest best.
June 24, 2105