Sunday 30 August: Medea, Butler Theatre at the Fringe House (IFF)
I never figured out why this was part of the FringeNext schedule. It was all adults performing (Butler students and graduates), and putting it in FringeNext limited it to three performances (although a fourth was added on closing Sunday night).
My first impression of the production was that the sound track was grossly overamped. As soon as the opening scream was done (silent from Medea and piercing from the speakers directly overhead), I wanted to stand and yell back "turn it down!" I am already hard of hearing (that's one reason I sit up front). I don't want to have to wear earplugs to protect what's left, and the performers, who have to tolerate that din for rehearsals and performances, surely are not having any favors done by the tech crew. Whoever thinks that such abuse of listeners is necessary for "effect" should be contributing generously to a workmen's compensation fund to cover the disabilities that are sure to follow. That opening colored my entire impression of the performance - unfavorably.
The racket continued, not nearly as intensely, but loudly enough that many lines were wiped out by the sound design. Strike two.
Georgeanna Smith played Medea, with Nicholas Abeel as her philandering husband. Four performers made up the chorus, and when speaking in unison, they were audible and surprisingly intelligible - good work on delivering the lines in unison.
The story is that Medea is thrown over by Jason in favor of Creon's daughter. Jason tries to make the excuse that his marrying a princess will bring benefits to their children - and maybe even to rejected Medea herself. Medea is having none of this. She first sends Creon's daughter poisoned wedding gifts, then kills the boys, ensuring that Jason will have no sons (at least not by these two women).
The design of the murder scene was very effective, with bright red feathers in large quantity representing the boys' blood (with dark purple feathers mixed in, representing shades of blood color - striking).
But in the end none of the players were convincing (perhaps partly because I could not hear them in the front row - too much sound overlay). No plaudits. Michael Burke directed. I gave it a B-, which is the lowest grade I have ever given a Butler production.
The show was a part of FringeNext because they signed up late and it was literally the ONLY slot left in the Fringe.
I do agree that the sound was overamped, but my impression of the show certainly wasn't ruined by it. I saw the additional performance at 10:30 on Sunday, so maybe it was turned down more than the performance you saw? I thought the show was beautiful and interesting throughout--I never felt bored or like I couldn't understand what was going on, which can be a difficulty when approaching classical Greek text. Georgeanna brought a naturalism and ease to the role that launched the audience into her volatile mindset. Opposite her,Nick was just as well done, bring a sort of sadistic sexual tension between the two. The creepy vaudeville of the chorus serves to support the twisting of Medea's mind.
My high-points, particularly of the design, were the very horror-esque projection used (loved the editing), the orchestration (besides the volume, it fit the action incredibly well), and the costumes (that wedding dress?? the feathers??? beautiful...and all designed/created by the director). Also I really loved Georganna and Nick in the roles. They really brought the production to a whole new level beyond it's first manifestion (at Butler).
Low-points-- Like you said, the music was too loud. At times the chorus was positioned so that it was facing Medea but their backs were to the audience, or they were walking towards the back wall and speaking--a personal pet peeve. The lighting--which can't be helped really with the Fringe since they have to light every other show coming through the space. It always makes me cringe when an area is lit and an actor has found their spot in the dark.
I will admit I'm biased, as I am a friend of several of the performers, the director, and I am a Butler student.
That being said, I honestly think this was one of the most well done and artfully directed shows in the fringe this year.
Agree to disagree, Joe?
I was impressed with the vision Michael Burke had for this classic. The multi-media approach, so easily turned into an extraneous part of some presentations, was well blended here. I don't like dancers clumping across a stage for no reason but to clump, but Michael's dancers enhanced the drama. I'm a M. Burke fan. Please, MB, keep your fresh vision. I may not see everything you do, but I wish you the best.