Medea at BAM Review 


Medea at BAM

Chiara P., Editor-in-Chief

The Brooklyn Academy of Music presents the classic Medea with a contemporary twist. In a chillingly infinite white room with minimal objects and sets, the audience can only appreciate the frank and poignant performances of the actors.

The production stars Rose Byrne and Bobby Cannavale as Anna and Lucas. Their characters are based on Euripides’ original Medea and Jason. In Simon Stone’s Medea, Anna and Lucas are scientists who share a long past. When the play commences, Jason has had an affair with a younger woman, while Anna has been in a psychiatric institute. The events that unfold when she is released create a contentious and unsettling future as they navigate their relationship and those around them. The ultimate ending, in the original play, is that Medea kills her sons and herself due to her emotions confronting her husband’s betrayal of her and her family. Although analyzed over the years, it is still relevant and fascinating to question how does a person reach such a point?

The heavy strain of affairs and revenge catalyze in enigmatic comedy and drama over the course of the production. Blood and ash are emphasized motifs for the guilt and destruction of relationships. Although the supporting cast and lead Cannavale fulfill their roles with certainty, Bryne is the real star here. One can view her facial expressions in extreme close up by the large screen that accompanies the stage set. Her notable ability to mutate from comedic psychosis to manipulative love to vengeful scorn gains the audience’s sympathy and willingness to accept her actions. With the cards stacked against her, Anna makes the audience question whether they themselves should have questioned her insanity. The double standard of denouncing a woman’s revenge as madness is unparalleled as the tables turn. We learn that not everyone is innocent and nobody has purely good or malign intentions.

We also can come out from such a production with the understanding of why we continue to adapt ancient works like Medea, and why those adaptations may or may not work. Although terrifyingly brilliant and evocative, this adaptation also invests plenty in Medea’s actions as one of a mentally ill woman. To what extent mental illness is normalized for some and for whom we will deny or give sympathy are essential to how an audience member will receive the play. Is it the woman or the mental illness that has the voice here?

Unfortunately, Medea has ended its run at BAM, but I encourage seeking out other renditions of the play elsewhere!