Trilogy of Greek tragedies continues with ‘Medea’
IF YOU GO
What: Rust Belt Theater’s “Medea”
Where: The Calvin Center for the Arts, 755 Mahoning Ave., Youngstown
When: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and Aug. 6 and 7
Tickets: Call 330-507-2358.
By MILAN PAURICH
“Medea,” the second in Robert Dennick Joki’s trilogy of classical Greek tragedies, opens this weekend at the Calvin Center for the Arts.
Molly Galano, one of the area’s most honored and respected actresses, plays the infamous title role. In a recent interview, Galano discussed Medea, ancient drama and the exhilarating summer stock atmosphere at Joki’s Rust Belt Theater Company.
Q. Could you give us a thumbnail sketch of the plot for anyone who isn’t up to speed on Greek tragedy?
A. “Medea” is a classic love triangle gone horribly wrong. An older woman saves a (younger) man’s life. They marry and settle down, then have a couple of children. Enter a rich, beautiful, (much younger) woman and her powerful father. After some persuasion from the father — and the promise of great material wealth — Medea’s husband abandons her and the kids. Mayhem ensues. This may be Greek tragedy, but it’s not that far removed from “Desperate Housewives” (laughs).
Q. How do you get into the mind-set of a woman who kills her two children just to punish her husband? How do you find the humanity inside a character like that?
A. My challenge is to bring Medea to life. Even if she’s a monster, that’s what I have to do. Sadly, the idea of a mother killing her children — as horrifying as it is — isn’t a particularly rare occurrence. Human nature really hasn’t changed all that much since ancient times. The motivation can be anything: sudden anger, cold-hearted planning, even a belief that it’s merciful. A wise director once told me, “Look for the love in everyone.” You have to take risks onstage; otherwise, how do you grow?
Q. You’re usually accustomed to lengthier prep/rehearsal periods. How difficult was it to adapt to Rust Belt’s “summer camp” working environment?
A. It’s “summer stock” in the sense that, from the time the script is in your hands, you have about a week — in our case, two and a half weeks — to assemble the cast, rehearse and put it on stage. Summer is a busy time for many people, so you may not have the whole cast together until tech week. Everyone comes in with their lines memorized and ready to work. Some cast members are involved in other shows, so they really have a tough job. It all makes for a fast-paced, roller-coaster rehearsal period. And, as I learned working on “Wit,” Rob (Joki) has an almost supernatural calm that helps keep the jitters at bay.
Q. Who else is appearing in the show?
A. It’s a wonderful cast. Grace Vouvalis plays Medea’s long-time friend, Chalciope; Alyssa Connelly is the baby-sitter; Anita Weinstock plays the housekeeper; Tom Smith is Creon; Brandon Smith plays Jason; Nathan Beagle is Creon’s attendant; and Max and Turner Tompkins are Medea and Jason’s children.
Q. (Rob) Joki is known for bringing unconventional, even subversive touches to most of his work. What type of surprises can we look forward to in “Medea”?
A. Rob likes to think outside the box. In adapting a play written centuries ago, he’s added some interesting twists to give it a more contemporary feel. He’s dispensed with the traditional chorus, but their exposition is still presented. The language remains beautiful, yet more approachable somehow. Although it’s a quicker-paced and shorter play, all the important aspects of Euripedes’ original version remain intact.
Q. After playing so many sympathetic, even noble characters in recent years (Miss Daisy, Vivian Bearing in “Wit”), was it scary, liberating or both to take on someone like Medea?
A. Every character has their frightening aspects. Just as all people have light and dark sides to their personalities, the characters in any fictional piece — at least the interesting ones — are made up of good and bad traits. “Monstrous” really is in the eye of the beholder, but it’s all very human in the end.
Q. “Medea” is one of the most violent of all Greek tragedies. Will there be blood in Rust Belt’s version?
A. There will definitely be blood, and that’s all you’re going to get from me (laughs). Sorry to be so close-mouthed, but that’s the director-mandated answer. You’ll just have to come and see for yourself.