Theatre of the People wraps up its first year in grand style with two productions that have so many strengths that I wish I had far more space than I have. They began their season of twofers with stories of "daring deeds" from Ibsen moved to "ladies of lust" with Oscar Wilder and August Strindberg and now its "Beauty Betrayed" with Medea and The Trojan Women by Euripides.
Each of their earlier efforts had mixtures of verve, thoughtful intelligence and skills, but with "beauty betrayed" they've moved to a new level. Their post modern approaches take them and the audience deeply into the premodern power of Euripides.
Cofounder David Nosko directs his cofounder Hannah Moss as Medea in a strong production. Moss is by turns aristocratic, distant, alluring, and frightening and, yes, tragic. At the high point of the dreadful action, I found myself thinking about the definition of tragedy…the catharsis of pity and terror…and saying, hey, this is it!
There are plenty of high points and touches in Medea. As Jason, the man who Medea accuses of betrayal, Jared Miller made a very sympathetic figure. I enjoyed he loopy but wise characterization of the Nurse by Suzie Zimmerman and the gracefully way that she choreographed the group movement. The chorus performs as a quartet and individually. Each had a special quality. Alexandra Lucas was a straight charmer in pink and Jennifer Smith in blue actually sang her lines in a slightly bluesy tinged style.
The Trojan Women co directed by Sabrina Lloyd and Sean Cole was presented on a smaller scale with half as many actors, but no less focus and a heart rending climax. As the women led by Sam Gurnick as Hecuba sat lamenting on the ground outside the ruined walls, Shanta Parasuraman as Helen sat exiled by the bitter group playing guitar accompaniment. Their story is a tale of women as spoils of war. They sit and talk as they are parceled out to the victors by the sympathetic soldier Talthybius played by Meggie Bontrager.
Mary Latefa Malooley was the Cassandra who knows all but is listened to by none. Hannah Kennedy played a character called "the nameless woman." It was she who addressed the audience and talked about how good Troy had been and what a great place. In many of the play's speeches the directors have the actors speak in almost disjointed staccato. It lent additional power to Kennedy that she spoke directly to the audience in a more familiar manner
Farrell Paules was Hector's wife, a woman who as she laments the death of her husband must have their legacy, their child, snatched away and put to death. Again I was reminded of "pity and terror," but here it was mostly tears.
Theatre of the People's productions of "Medea" and "The Trojan Women" have final performances Thursday and Friday at eight and Saturday at two and eight in the Rose Firebay of the John Waldron Arts Center.
Listen to WFIU's George Walker's interview with co founders David Nosko and Hannah Moss and director Sabrina Lloyd.