To borrow an Amazonian sales tactic, If you liked Madeline Miller’s bestseller Circe, you should really catch the last four performances February 21-24 of Sophie Amieva and Suzanne Bagert’s Medusa Volution at happylucky no.1. Just as Miller allows the nymph to describe in her own words her special skill set (turning men into pigs), the playwrights and their all-female Samvia Theatre group directed by Amiva create a strong collective voice untangling Greek/Roman mythology’s if looks could kill eternal bad hair day.
Taking their cue from a throwaway line Ovid’s Metamorphosis, Medusa not always sprouted a head of snakes. The priestess’s good looks attracted unwanted attention from Sea God Poseidon, who raped (Ovid’s exact phrase) her. Of course Poseidon went unpunished, but his niece Athena sentenced her supplicant by taking away her looks and humanity. Why? The attack took place in her temple and Medusa lost her virginity, thereby losing what the Goddess of Wisdom valued more than loyalty, faith, or the truth.
Symbolizing the disfigured, hidden woman, the cast (Chandler Eliah Eason, Julia Cavagna, Julia Gu, Kayla Juntilla, Irina Varina, Gabrielle Young) are first seen wrapped in plastic “pouring” from a jug hung from the set covering them like statues. For the next hour and 40 minutes, the truth-seeking Chorus dance, chant and curse the unwritten inaccuracies of Medusa’s plight, addding in those of Eve (Varina) and Salome (Eliah Eason) for good measure The strong sexual symbolism includes ringing a boxing bell signalling essential information or utterance of “MONSTER!,” bright red apples dotting the stage and the overgrown greenhouse (or is it Medusa’s cave?) in back of happylucky no.1’s small performing space.
Along with resoundingly replying to the long tradition of male myth makers (Homer, Ovid, Hawthorne, Bulfinch), Graves…), a few modern ones get retold courtesy of Jesse. In one incarnation she is a student (Gu) considering sex with her professor. She is also an ambitious corporate type (Varina) using her boss in the same sexually calculating way he used her. Another Jesse is the opposite of both; a wife and mother (Young) who resents and leaves them. No judgement is passed on her actions. That’s left the audience to decide whether Jesse fulfills the modern myths of womanhood – or not.
Medusa Volution’s last scene finally introduces Medusa (Amieva). Wearing white rags and biting on one of the omnipresent apples, she is trapped by her hideousness. Medusa turned men to stone because she was physically and mentally turned to stone. The deliberately slow choreography for Medea’s Transcendence Dance is by Vangeline in the Japanese Butoh style. Applying twentieth century Eastern avant-gardism to ages-old perceptions allow Medusa to speak without saying a word.
happylucky no.1 is located on 734 Nostrand Avenue, Brooklyn.
Visit Samieva Theater’s website for further information.