As much about Medea as this production is, it’s also as much about Christopher Vergara, its Director. During the past few years a seed–bed of young “Mac actors” has been germinating in McMaster’s School of the Arts. In 2010 I spotted Vergara at a Mac Summer Student Festival as “Puck”, in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”. It was an outstanding performance of physical and intelligent artistry among all the youthful talent assembled, like discovering a vein of gold. He was one with the character, a fountain of inventive mischief and creative interpretive movement, born it seemed to the siren call of the stage. Fittingly almost, it was in musical theatre he first spread his wings off campus. As the doomed “Angel” in the musical “Rent”, Vergara revealed his depth of interior resources, and as the dupe “Bloom” in “The Producers”, he mined the variety of his comic timing. No part was too small or too challenging to tackle. The call of Toronto found him exploring more experience and adventure. Not surprising then that he looked to direct. Truthfully, it was all unsuspecting that I met him again last week in this, his first role as a Director. Daring, but well shy of foolhardy, new–born Director Vergara has taken “Medea” and re–made it. Flawlessly successful? No. Stunningly brave and outrageous, well of course! Vergara lifts Euripides tragic tale out of Corinth, Greece, circa BC 500 and replants it in some Corinth, U.S.A., and in the 1950s if you please. It doesn’t quite work. He has a perfectly commendable theory that the tragedy of Medea is about the oppression of women. In ancient Greece, as Jason’s wife, Medea is a chattel, a souvenir of a great adventure. When something more socially desirable in a wife comes a long, a Corinthian royal princess say, it’s farewell Medea. “My new father–in–law,” Jason pontificates, “will exile you but not to worry, once settled with our two sons, I’ll bring you back as my mistress.” That, schemes Medea, is not going to happen. To Director Vergara it’s at this point that a parallel can be drawn to an emerging liberation of woman as potentially powerful in the western world of the 20th century when a revolution in feminine liberation was brewing. Unfortunately, in spite of his brilliantly exciting adaptation of costume, set, and property, he didn’t adapt the language or the society. What we get are ancient Greeks in a modern situation drama. The result, though, is revealing to watch as Vergara has an almost bottomless talent for invention that makes for a splendid visual experience in experimentation. There’s first rate choreography and staging finesse. A moving tableau–sailing of the Argo makes one want to rise and cheer. The attention to detail is astounding, really. A convincing set creates the suburban high–income end of the spectrum; costumes, hair and make–up are terrific. He’s found a great cast of principals, and gets superb work out of them, but every inch of them is classical Greek and the parallel is hard to see. In spite of this, let me assure you, these actors find the reality in their roles, and for all the intervention, the integrity of Euripides’ masterpiece is intact. Graziella Mastrangelo’s “Medea” is powerful, beautiful, and ultimately frightening. Dan Megaffin reveals the compelling truth of the self–congratulatory, ingenuous Jason. There’s a polished, well– conceived performance in Matthew Boccia’s mafia–like portrayal of King Creon, and a gently compelling helplessness in Aegeus comes from Matthew Greenacre. Costumed to make the most of her marvelously endless legs is Jessica Teicher, effective as “Nurse”. In the smaller roles, I single out Deepanshu Metea as an actor to watch for his excellent presence and striking features. The company’s smaller roles are played with obvious sincerity and intelligence by Uju Ubah, Erin Dykstra, Tegan O’Brien, Jason Rule, Jordan Hallin, Fiona Haque, and Jorden Brunet. As Medea’s two sons in mute roles, great credit goes to Kyle Sanders and Danielle Rodriguez. The awful majesty of this Hellenic tragedy smashes through the trappings of Halo Shampoo commercials and seeing the U.S.A. in your Chevrolet. The play lives and Christopher Vergara has a future in directing , definitely. Get out and see for yourselves. V
Until Feb. 2
Presented by McMaster Thespian Company.
@ Robinson Memorial Theatre, McMaster University