CUNY Macaulay Honors College at Baruch College/Professor Bernstein
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Category — Medea

Medea: Simplicity, That Was All It Took.

There is the word that we often forget in our busy lives: “simplicity.” Overwhelmed by day-to-day technological and cultural changes, we continuously look for something new and flashy. We are so used to watching the enormous, delicate stage on the Broadway show and actors and actresses in stunning outfits. However, Medea reading directed by Mahayana Landowne at the Baruch Performing Arts Center on October 4th, 2010 made me to realize that the real potential of a performing art is not limited to the materials on the stage. By minimizing the stage devices and outfits, the performance proved that nothing else could outreach the potential of the performers.

Medea is an ancient play written by Euripides in the 3rd century B.C. It contains a deep depth of emotions of agony, betrayal and revenge. When I first heard that we were going to attend the reading, I was concerned. Without any stage devices or the appropriate costumes to imply the setting and time, how are they going to embody Medea from the Ancient Greece?  However, as soon as the actual reading started by Kathleen Turco-Lyon’s calm voice who played the nurse, I put aside all my concerns. I was instantly drawn into the passionate reading of the actors and actresses. Especially whenever the actress Denise Ann Pelletier, who played a role of Medea grasped the attention from the audience through her passionate acting. Every little aspect of her voice, gaze and even hand gestures, all became Medea herself. With her bare feet, she led herself and all of us into the real world of drama. Through I learned the beauty of simplicity.

December 13, 2010   No Comments

Oh, Manic Medea!

A high-pitched wailing heard off-stage initially sets Medea as a manic, morbid, bitter, ranting lunatic. A sort of woman gone wild. The Greek tragic play Medea is a peephole into the story of a woman who takes revenge against her husband who has betrayed her for another woman. In an extended fit of rage, she is driven to mental insanity and kills her children at the play’s end.

Medea is not the only one who uses exaggeration. October 5th’s dramatic reading of Medea was jam-packed with exaggerated expression in all forms; sardonicism, sarcasm, and rhetoric saturate the entire performance. Characters are careful to communicate their emotion through their speech, but also play with their tone of voice, body language, and facial expressions.

The synchronization among the chorus, Medea’s central triumvirate, is especially noteworthy. The three chorus men are wary of their facial expressions, altering it appropriately in response to the changing plot. Several instances throughout the play, characters kneel on the wooden stage, in a sense taking the place of elaborate costumes or props. All characters maintain eye contact, and body movements are carefully choreographed across the stage. Mention must be made of their fluctuating tone because of the sarcasm inherent in the text of Medea.

Hooray to the cast for their excellent use of pathos, because the performance as a whole left me with an ambiguous taste in my mouth. Which side deserves my sympathy? With only fifteen hours of practice on their backs, I gotta give them a hand. They had my attention wrapped around their little pinkie!

November 3, 2010   No Comments



Practice, practice, practice. A person who wants to do well in nearly any sort of an activity is bound to hear this piece of advice; performers are no exception. However, there seems to be more to reaching success than just constant repetition. In the reading of Medea, a part of the Joel Segall Great Works Reading Series, the cast demonstrated that perhaps true talent and a bit of creativity play an even larger role in putting together a dramatic, yet convincing show.

After speaking just a few lines, Kathleen Turco-Lyon, the Nurse, impressed the audience with the soothing wave of her classical voice. Despite her plain black attire, Turco-Lyon’s melodic intonation created an effortless transition from the 21st century in New York City into ancient Greece. While she did not spend a great deal of time speaking, the consistent display of emotion seen in her facial expressions made her character an important asset to the performance. Through her painfully real looks of horror and distress, the grave seriousness of Medea’s situation easily became believable.

Denise Ann Pelletier, who played Medea also left the crowd with a lasting first impression. Though she was offstage when her character was introduced, her sorrowful cry was able to fill the theater with Medea’s bitter rage and sour despair. The shaking intensity of her character’s emotions was carried out through the rest of the reading. At the same time, however, she managed to do so in a very controlled manner, avoiding the melodrama that results from an overdone attempt at a challenging role.

Despite the actresses’ passion and moving effect on the audience, Jason, played by Bryn Magnus appeared completely detached from the performance. With the rough voice of a man who could very well be your next-door neighbor, it was clear that he had little experience with performing Greek plays. There were also one or two instances in which he fought with a line until it finally stumbled out of his mouth. Evidently, he was unable to connect with his character, just as the audience was unable to connect with him.

Though Magnus’s performance was not quite up to par with the others, there were other valuable aspects of the reading that outweighed this weakness. Those who worked on this performance were resourceful and were able to effectively incorporate the highlights of the original play into this condensed version. Although the use of actual children in the reading would have heightened the tension of Medea’s plot for revenge, the use of two masks in place of them was clever and surprisingly quite fitting. Since the actors fully embraced the shiny white masks as the children, it was not difficult as an audience member, to do the same.

Moreover, the decision to use the entire theater as the actors’ stage helped to sweep the spectators into the messy lives of the miserable characters. In the beginning of the play, the chorus stood up from among the audience members, and this tiny surprise certainly caught their attention. At times, actors also entered and exited scenes through the sides of the theater. Though it was not always convenient to turn around and see who was speaking or coming in, overall, this technique kept the audience attentive and interested during each transition from scene to scene.

While some might imagine the reading of a play, rehearsed for a mere 15 hours, to be raw and rather unpolished, this performance certainly went beyond such expectations. Though the reading was far from flawless, the majority of the actors’ skills allowed Medea’s tragic story to smoothly unfold. Innovatively performed, this reading of Medea was an entertaining storm of anger, frustration and merciless revenge.

October 9, 2010   No Comments


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September 2, 2010   No Comments