Remaining Performances: Saturday July 19, 12:30 p.m. Friday July 25, 8:00 p.m. Sunday July 27, 2:15 p.m.
They say: EXCLUSIVE! Classy babe turned ancient Greek temptress TELLS ALL: the whirlwind romance that drove her to MURDER her children, the TRAGEDY that is modern theatre and the portrayal of women in the age of Rihanna and JLaw.
Rachel K’s take: Since Greek tragedian Euripides first told her story more than two millennia ago, Medea has become the archetype of a crazy bitch. This is the woman who killed her children after her husband left her for a princess, and made sure the princess died in a robe of flames. This lady wanted sweet, sweet revenge so bad that the idea of her still makes our mouths go sour.
Medea’s Got Some Issues is about the human who became such a weighty symbol, and her reactions to the appropriation of her myth. Even if infanticide isn’t your go-to joke well, the play is uproariously funny because the acid-tongued Medea (Lisa Hodsoll) is both painfully self-aware and a ghastly example of cognitive dissonance.
Playwright Emilio Williams told the Washington Post that he chose Medea as a subject for his play because he thought she would be “one of the most difficult characters to defend.” His play isn’t necessarily a defense of the character, even if the character spends the whole play defending herself. “I’m the granddaughter of the goddamn Sun,” she often says, shocked that anyone would disrespect someone of her impressive lineage.
Seeing Medea’s Got Some Issues is a little like going to brunch with your craziest friend, if the restaurant had columns that were even more phallic than your usual Doric. Despite how horrifying some of her justifications are, there is a centrifugal force to each word. She is gushing in a manner that compels you to keep watching and keep laughing. Hodsoll, who goes all in, deserves the credit for this. It is no easy task to make Medea seem like a person I might hang out with, even if eggs Benedict were included.
In some of the show’s funniest moments, Hodsoll embodies different intellectuals opining about Medea. The first admires Medea for her patriarchy-smashing and advocates for every woman to cut off her son’s fingers to punish the father (it’s more hilarious than it sounds). The second, a postmodern author of Lacan’s Le Can Can, speaks only in academic gobbledygook. And the final professor, a hoity-toity theater scholar, looks around the stage and says, “This is not Medea. This is not Euripides. This is theater excrement.” The true crime here is not murder, but the show that tries to get creative about displaying it.
These meta-moments are clever and devastatingly funny. Hodsoll ably transforms into each of these other roles, giving them small tics and gestures. Hodsoll as Medea as Actress Playing Medea bemoans her lack of a Helen Hayes award and offers an audience member a blow job if he can get her a review in the Washington Post. While certainly extreme, is Medea’s longing for vindication and accolades really that different than the rest of us?
Even Medea’s most extreme act — the murder of her children — is about far more than getting back at her ex. “This one’s for the Hobby Lobby,” she says, smashing her infants into one another. This is about every man who dared try and control a woman, or even worse, every man who decided he didn’t really care about controlling that woman anymore. This is about going crazy from being called crazy too much.
Thank goodness, every time I got around to empathizing with Medea, she would say something like “Casey Anthony did what any mother would do,” and I could begin the process of separating myself from this bewitching anti-hero yet again, laughing all the way.
See it if: You would rather stand three times with a shield in battle than give birth once, and would rather laugh than either of the first two options.
Skip it if: You hate the smell of ketchup. You will smell ketchup.
Lisa Hodsoll photo © 2014 Paul Gillis Photograpy