Article Image
Jeanette Pala / Staff Photographer

KCST's "Medea" centered on the refugee status of the title character, drawing parallels to modern-day displacement crises.

Medea offers a harrowing insight into the current worldwide refugee crisis—banished from her home, she is caught between her family and safety.

King’s Crown Shakespeare Troupe presented a modern reworking of Euripides’ classic “Medea” from Oct. 19 to 21. The gripping depiction of Medea and Jason’s relationship brings domestic and political turmoil to the forefront of the compelling production.

In her first time as a solo director, Asya Sağnak, BC ’19, illuminated themes of exile and betrayal, and added that “a lot of the implications of the text have changed” with this year’s production.

“In our modern-day Medea, Medea is this under-utilized, pigeon-holed, caged-in housewife,” Sağnak said.

However, the theme of family remains prominent in this modern translation of the play. The compact nature of Lerner’s Black Box Theater gave the audience a proximity to the performance that echoed the domestic setting of the play. The breakdown of Medea’s family is induced by monarchical influence: the king of Corinth imposes exile on Medea after his daughter Glauce’s engagement to Jason. The homely set designed by Yisel Garcia, BC ’19, which is embellished with golden décor, reflects the impact the royal had on Medea and Jason’s relationship.

KCST “identifies as a family,” Sağnak said, a quality that shone through in the cast’s cohesive production—the chorus’ impressive synchronized performance stood out as an example of this closeness.The director stated that it was particularly rewarding directing the three-woman chorus, composed of Claire Fry, CC ’19, Grace Hargis, BC ’20, and Grace Henning, BC ’20, who were on stage for almost the entirety of the performance.

The chorus members’ movements and speech, which seamlessly shifted from nails tapping on wine glasses to finishing each other’s sentences, are a testament to the actresses’ rigorous rehearsal schedule and gave the play a captivating and forbidding atmosphere.

In having the play commence and conclude with the nurse folding children’s clothing into a laundry basket, the director firmly underlined the tragedy of the play—like the nurse unable to escape her duties, Medea is also trapped by the persecution that has befallen her.

Medea’s children are offstage throughout the entirety of the KCST production, which makes their deaths at the play’s end more jarring. The physical removal of Medea’s sons from the scene drew focus to Medea and Jason, whose bitter feud forsakes their own offspring. Rose Meriam, CC ’19, and Hugo Wehe, CC ’19, who portrayed Medea and Jason, gave enigmatic performances that were particularly striking. The pair worked in tandem to maintain a captivating air of fury and spite.

Euripides’ original work is underpinned by the want for power and social advancement, a sentiment that is reflected in the costumes of the two central characters. Costume designer Breana Beaudreault, BC ’19, should be lauded for capturing the difference in the principle characters’ social status through their clothes; Jason wears a formal suit, which is juxtaposed by Medea’s red slip dress and bare feet.

Sağnak said that what is interesting to her about the text is Medea’s status as a perpetual foreigner.

“She’s been exiled from her old home, she’s been exiled from her new home,” Sağnak said. This is an element of the play to which, as a Turkish political science major, Sağnak feels very connected.

The ancient Greek play is thus relevant to the current refugee crisis, which has seen over a million people migrate to Western Europe in the past two years—an issue that is harrowingly encapsulated by the Chorus’ sentiment that “nothing is like the sorrow of losing your native land.” | @ColumbiaSpec