Dallas — Right now in our city, two theaters are examining Greek myth and tragedy in radically different ways than we’re used to seeing in conventional staging of work by dramatists like Euripides and Sophocles—and both are sharing their anguish and agony in the Dallas Arts District in downtown.
One is Kevin Moriarty’s expansive, audience-moving, immersive production of Sophocles’ Electra, freely adapted by Moriarty, using four outdoor locations in Annette Strauss Square and the AT&T Performing Arts Center. It’s pure Moriarty in his mad-genius “bigger is better” mode. One wonders what would happen if he ever got to stage, say, Shakespeare, in truly massive space. (You listening, Jerry World?)
The other Greek examination is defiantly opposite in scale and tone—intimate on both levels. Medea Myth: Love’s Beginning is the latest creation of those lovers of wordless drama at PrismCo Movement Theater, produced as part of the AT&T Performing Arts Center’s second Elevator Project in the sixth floor studio theater at the Wyly Theatre.
Medea is famous to many from Euripides’ play, which ends with her committing infanticide because of betrayal by her husband, Jason.
This is not that Medea.
Written and directed by Brandon Sterrett, it plays off the myth of Medea, Jason, and the Argonauts that inspired Euripides, Homer and many other writers.
If the subtitle “Love’s Beginning” didn’t give it away, the hourlong work shows us the title character (played by Katy Tye, who co-founded PrismCo with Jeffrey Colangelo) as she meets and falls for Jason (PrismCo staple Josh Porter), and helps him and his Argonauts (represented by Gretchen Hahn and Jeremiah Johnson as the clown characters seen in every PrismCo show). Brandon Whitlock is her father, King Aeëtes, whom the fleece is taken from, and Mitchell Stephens is Medea’s brother Absrytos. Children aren’t the only people Medea killed.
Kia Nicole Boyer and Amy Barnes, both lithe and lively, play Elementals, primordial gods that take on facets of nature. They accent the drama and comedy, the closest to a chorus role in this Greek tale.
PrismCo specializes in wordless movement theater, with choreography that employs vocabularies of ballet and modern dance, including weight sharing and lifts involving multiple performers. As with their 2015 take on the Persephone myth, this Medea uses shadow play craftily. (Myth figures prominently in PrismCo’s work, having also taken on Midas, Galatea, Aztec gods, and the creation/destruction of the world.)
Sterrett shows storytelling prowess, skillfully blending expressive, dancerly limb and body shapes with Colangelo’s penchant for clowning and detailed fight choreography. (If you come 10 minutes before curtain, prepare to be invaded by the Argonauts and Jason as they first set sail in the lobby.) Perhaps because of the intimacy of the space—the group relished in the warehouse spaces of Trinity Groves before the fire marshal crackdowns—there aren’t as many tricks and gimmicks seen in previous work. It serves this story and ensemble well.
Porter has become a more emotive performer over the years, and Tye has glimpses of a woman capable of rage, but filled with life and love to give. Hahn and Johnson do some of the best clowning work this company has accomplished.
There is killing and death—and very big knives—in this Medea, but we don’t even get to the main couple having children so it’s not as heavy as the Euripides version you’re familiar with. While the band of DTC actors leads audiences through a maze of death and anguish across Flora Street, PrismCo reminds us that even the greatest tragedies began with that thing that often leads to trouble. Not to mention the making of legends.
Ah, sweet love.
Correction: An earlier version of this review listed Katy Tye as writer/director. TheaterJones regrets the error.