Chicago Theater Review: JASON AND (MEDEA) ((re)discover theatre)

Post image for Chicago Theater Review: JASON AND (MEDEA) ((re)discover theatre)

by Lawrence Bommer on June 21, 2013

in Theater-Chicago


The tickets are free in (re)discover theatre’s generously-meant new work by company member Jessica Shoemaker. Their too-fresh offering is an anachronistic, two-act take on the love story behind the legend of ancient Greek hero Jason and his witch wife Medea. Jason and (Medea) — the strange parentheses hinting at one partner’s curious downsizing — begins where the tragedy ends: Medea, driven Lawrence Bommer’s Stage and Cinema review of Jason and (Medea) at (re)discover theatre in Chicago.desperate by Jason’s humiliation of her as he strategically marries an airhead princess of Corinth, is about to kill her kids. A voiceover from Jason describes the horror of the sight more graphically than a blood bag from a bundle could convey.

Presumably, this looming horror foreshadows the future and infects the past, questioning the innocence of any love that linked the famous couple. But Shoemaker’s flat-footed depiction of the lovers’ life and times seems haunted by a different kind of future. They sound just like us, making it up as they go along. There are no rhetorical flights of fancy, soaring eloquence or moaning choruses anticipating the worst. Supposedly keeping it real, Shoemaker substitutes crude outbursts, colloquial dialogue, sarcastic stand-up comic putdowns by Medea of her clueless Jason, and occasional bursts of physics lessons about the laws of universal attraction and repulsion (Medea is a cross between Nancy Drew and Marie Curie).

Lawrence Bommer’s Stage and Cinema review of Jason and (Medea) at (re)discover theatre in Chicago.It’s a jarring remix of current clichés and universal expletives that makes the action uncomfortably contemporary, as when Medea retorts that when she multiplies Jason’s professed love by zero, it reveals its worth.

That may well be the point. Perhaps the factual historical figures who became virtual myth were too overwhelmed by events to be eloquent about the Argonauts’ search for the Golden Fleece, Medea’s murder of her possibly incestuous brother, the perilous sea journey from Colchis to Corinth, or, as here, Heracles’ adventures with the apple-throwing Atalanta thrown in for bad measure. Their courtship is blandly romantic, with Jason sweet-talking the biomorphically insecure Medea. She gets a crush on him after he carries a woman across a swollen river, while Jason really, really wants to be a famous hero: Hey, she’s got the right mojo-working magic to pave the path to posterity. This could be the start of something big.

No feminist except by being smarter than the men (no big feat here), Medea kills her brother and finally her children — her most notorious crimes against the cosmos — for motives we see but never feel. The brother’s ghost returns to haunt her for reasons that refuse to reveal themselves. Heracles’ appearance could also be called a distraction, but that would assume there was a coherent storyline from which to Lawrence Bommer’s Stage and Cinema review of Jason and (Medea) at (re)discover theatre in Chicago.depart.

Somehow we expect language to rise to whatever great occasions seem at stake. Here it just fuels the action or, as in the case of Medea’s 21st-century scientific intuitions, confuses it. The important events of the legend are rushed, while the opening scene takes forever to get to the boat that launches the adventure.

Performed under an overhead swirl of beaded glass on a stage depicting a mosaic whirlpool, Janet Howe’s fast-moving, two-hour staging never lets any scene linger long, which only makes the whirlwind scene-changing more frenetic. Bridget Schweiber’s ever-questing Medea, doomed to be disrespected, and Alex Thompson’s monomaniacally driven, vainglorious Jason (“I want a do-over,” he unpoetically proclaims at one point) are no epic mismatch. Their differences are too blatant to make their love convince. Almost too modern to matter, the ensemble is plucky, resilient and relevant — for what little that offers to a once-and-future saga.

Lawrence Bommer’s Stage and Cinema review of Jason and (Medea) at (re)discover theatre in Chicago.

photos by Farrah Underwood

Jason and (Medea)
(re)discover theatre
The Second Stage, 3408 N Sheffield
scheduled to end on July 7, 2013
for tickets, visit

for info on this and other Chicago Theater, visit

Comments on this entry are closed.