TMichelle Horton he set is sparse, and it seems it’s been like this for several years. A deep purplish light, a bench, a window and a translucent sheet of fabric that will soon become a screen are the only objects visible. This is the ambiance of “Making Medea,” the current production by the women of MaMa mOsAiC.
The chimes of childhood memories and comfort resound as the sixties pop song “Push Over” plays, and finally a voice cries: “I loved you!” and echoes “Why?” Jeany Park, Sha Cage and Signe Harriday form a machine of three women: cranking, thrusting, lifting, shifting, all the while repeating “All you need is love … and love is the answer.” They work together as an assembly line for the syrupy ideal of fairy tale love. Their movements are perfectly timed, perfectly choreographed and totally spellbinding.
Soon into the show, Sha Cage is undulating her body, her torso springing forth while her arms thrust forward in a warrior’s stance. She hisses and attacks, she explains and laments. She is so unbelievably mesmerizing, yet it is difficult to engage with her. Cage gets to that center of gravity we hold so near and dear, where fear and dread are deposited day after day, and after years of accumulation they are untangled and let loose – and we begin to weep.
Further into the performance, Jeany Park and Signe Harriday hone the relationships between gender, race and class. By switching the inflections in their tone, an Asian woman speaks as if black, a black woman speaks as if African, an Asian woman as if middle class white. This scene is nothing short of breathtaking. Both women appear to be incarcerated, and as they speak the same lines with shifting inflections, they begin to merge content with style while commanding simplicity and grace. They are speaking of a woman in the news, who has recently killed her children. It could be any woman in a similar situation. And they are asking questions about her, questions that provoke the audience to its own inquiry.
Park, Cage and Harriday have closed in on the anxiety of “passing,” and what it means for women, particularly though not exclusively, to pass for something or someone else everyday. “Making Medea” focuses on these moments of loss of identity and rupture of trust which characterize most intimate relationships. Furthermore, the production examines the long-term ramifications of this framework for the typical American, heterosexual relationship. This leads to the larger question of the production: where does Medea come from? Are the Susan Smiths and Andrea Yeats of our time just born? Or are these women – among countless others – made, and made in our society just like everyone else? Do these women live alongside us in society, passing for someone else until they just snap one day? Or instead, are we all as citizens, families and communities responsible for these crimes on the lives of children? Whose responsibility is it? And where are their husbands?
These questions do not have definitive answers, but they must be asked. The two final scenes of the production are unbelievable. The climax is desperate, repetitive and painful. The use of a projector, previously innocuous, takes us to the brink of unreason.
Although “Making Medea” navigates around issues specifically pertaining to women, its triumph comes from not implicating men. Rather, it makes clear that these tragedies affect everyone; that we are all involved. Park, Cage and Harriday show in some painfully comedic and harrowing ways what is at stake in the media coverage of these events, the private horrors of those who have lived through them, and our involvement as teachers, co-workers, and neighbors.
It is as cathartic as the Greek tragedies, and political as the Roman amphitheatre.
“Making Medea” plays through April 19 at the Red Eye Theater, (612) 870-0309
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