The Vernal & Sere Theatre Co. lobby is a buzz with anticipation. Audience members whisper excitingly to one another while clutching their single page program that displays two hands cradling an aborted fetus on the cover. No one knows what to expect as the doors open to the dimly lit stage.
The first inviting caress of the production reaches us in form of music, a powerful tool throughout the production, and invites us all to be seated as a film is projected on the fabric draped across the stage. We watch a scene of hedonistic celebration: of champagne, cocktail gowns, wedding dresses, drag queens leading guests to dark corners, inviting eyes that undress and consume, masks, and the unbridled lust that serves as juxtaposition to the cold betrayal that is painted on Medea's face as she watches, uninvited and outcast on the edge of the celebration. Then the show begins.
We are so engrossed in the film that it comes as a surprise when the shapeless mound in the middle of the stage stirs to reveal Medea, screaming herself into the world to enthrall us with her tale of anguish.
Medea as a cold calculating monster has thrilled audiences for thousands of years. This is not the same story that Euripides crafted.
What playwright by Sawyer Estes, director Erin Colleen O’Conner, and the Vernal & Sere ensemble created for us was a story of love. This Medea is completely consumed with love for Jason and her unborn sons, a love that is unraveled and perverted by each stone cast upon her. Her Nurse, the OBGYN taking sonograms of her twin boys, serves as the analytical to Medea’s fire, the string holding her together, and finally the one empathetic advocate to her desperate choices. We explore the perverse and dysfunctional family of Creon, from the heart wrenching daughter who was raised as a sexual object, to unhappy Jason who tore himself from his true soul-mate, Medea. To further delineate from the source material, a man reminiscent of Tyler Perry's Madea comes on stage two hours late, blaming the 85 traffic, and convinced she was late for her own play. She ends up becoming a brilliant theatrical convention to talk bluntly and forthright with us, engaging the audience in difficult and current conversations.
The production masterfully folds in the earnest questioning of what makes a woman, man, wife, mother, lover, King, and father. The last dialogue exchange between Nurse and Medea sums up the Sisyphus labor of existence with:
Nurse: It is hard to be a woman in today's world.
Medea: Person. It is hard to be a person.
This show is not for the faint of heart. It is for those brave enough to lock eyes with the hard, unblinking stare of existence and live with what one discovers. Catalyst has seen every production of Vernal and Sere, and in the company’s short existence they have grown exponentially with fire and fearlessness. We look forward with great excitement for what comes next!