Seana McKenna’s Medea is mesmerizing.
MEDEA by Euripides, directed by Miles Potter (Mirvish/MTC). At the Canon Theatre (244 Victoria). To February 8. $30-$85. 416-872-1212. See Continuing. Rating: NNNN
Outsider. No word better describes Medea, the Eastern princess who flees her homeland with her lover, Jason (of golden fleece fame), leaving fratricide and other murders in her wake.
When the couple settles in Corinth, the "barbarian" Medea faces worse trials: rejection by Jason, his impending marriage to King Creon's daughter and banishment by the "civilized" Creon. Euripides' play begins here, as Medea plans revenge.
Robinson Jeffers's poetic adaptation, which removes much of the supernatural force of the gods, engages a modern audience powerfully, especially in Seana McKenna's performance as the wronged Medea. Using her magnificent voice, switching Medea's private and public faces as if they were masks, using dripping sarcasm or biting irony to score points, McKenna is always riveting.
There's equally strong work from Patricia Conolly as her nurse, who's given the difficult job of providing us with the play's background at the beginning of the show. The men - Jason (Scott Wentworth), Creon (Nigel Bennett) and Aegeus (Michael Spencer- Davis, who delivers some comedy in the midst of the tragedy) - have strengths, too, but they function as foils to Medea's sweeping scheme.
Director Miles Potter's production is successful, though the female chorus (a fine group of Canadian actors) isn't as strong as it might be in the first act, and some moments feel overstated.
But even for those viewers who know the story's outcome, the final scene is shocking and emotionally draining. That's high praise.