“Medea” debuts in Cloak this weekend

Joy Manweiler

“Without a cherry-flavored condom or Annette Thornton, ‘Medea’ would not be happening,” said Maria Giere, who plays the title role in the upcoming production. “Medea,” the senior theater project of David Hanzal, director, is “a play about love and the different aspects and complications surrounding love,” according to Hanzal.The production is a modern adaptation of the original script by Euripides, adapted by Hanzal for this production from the translation by Frederic Raphael and Kenneth McLeish.

Hanzal chose “Medea” for his senior project for two reasons: first, because he wanted to do a myth for its elemental and timeless nature; and second, he specifically chose the work for the opportunity to dispel common misconceptions about the title character.

People think of Medea as a stereotype, a child-killer, but he says that at her core, and at the core of the play, is love. According to Hanzal, there are a lot of universal truths in the play; people see Jason as a cheating husband, when really he has much more depth than that.

Hanzal and the cast and crew of the production hope the audience will walk away with a different view of the well-known myth.

This desire for the audience’s understanding has helped to fuel some of the choices that Hanzal and company have made during the production process. First, the Greek chorus of 15 women that is called for in the original has been removed along with their choral odes because, as Giere said, “we’re just not about choral odes anymore.”

Instead, one woman who is involved in the story comments on the action in a more personal way than the traditional chorus would, through familiar modern songs.

Second, the modern setting will make the performance more accessible to the audience than a traditional setting would. The play is set in present-day Malibu, Calif. (“our Mt. Olympus,” as Giere put it), which not only eases the audience with its familiarity but also gives the impression of a pristine, flawless world.

The setting wasn’t only a product of wanting the audience to be comfortable, however. The “perfection” of Malibu is a great place for Medea to relive her final day of destruction over and over again, as the contrast between the setting and the events will be extremely palpable.

Also, since the action is a product of her memory, some of the moments are extremely solid, while others are more foggy or dreamlike.

Hanzal has been active in theater since the beginning of his Lawrence career, though he originally was an English major only (he is now a theater arts/English double major, studio art minor).

He appeared in the mainstage productions “Our Country’s Good” and “First Lady,” and has experience stage managing mainstage productions as well. His true passion, however, lies in smaller independent productions.

Last year he appeared in “The Turn of the Screw,” directed by Gwen Kelly-Masterton, who appears in “Medea.”

He also directed V-Day’s production of The Vagina Monologues last year, and will direct this year’s LUMP musical (Cabaret) and next term’s The Shape of Things, which is the combined senior theatre project of Aram Monisoff, Kim Stabile, and Giere.

He and Giere attribute their success at Lawrence largely to Annette Thornton, postdoctoral fellow in theatre arts, who also appears in “Medea.”

“She’s really helped us find ourselves as artists, and as people,” said Hanzal. Giere agreed, “She’s just been absolutely transformative.”

The production process has been extremely collaborative in every aspect. With costume design by Daniella Cartun, lighting design by Stabile, makeup design by Katie Cravens, acting by Nikko Benson, Julia Robinson, Caroline Mandler, Erika Thiede, and others mentioned above, and MarVanna Avery-Cash, Lauren Shorofsky, Stabile, and Jess Vittitoe in the booth, “Medea” is poised for success.

Performances are at 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 30 and Saturday, Dec. 1 in Cloak Theatre. Tickets are free and the performances are open to the public, but seating will be extremely limited due to set restrictions, so arrive early (doors open at 7:30). Recommended for mature audiences only; no one under 12 will be admitted.