Medea, The Musical
       Directed by John Vreeke

of  "The Stranger"

ArtsWest Theatre Company, 4711 California Ave SW

All about Medea presents a small gay theater that's staging a drag production of Medea. The drama--written by Mark Mitchell and directed by Ilya Pearlman of Theater Fabulon--is set both on and behind stage. The drama behind stage concerns an aging diva (played by Matt Slinger) whose position is challenged by a young and ambitious actress (Jen Faulkner), whose wealthy father promises to give the struggling theater money if her roles are improved in future plays. A vicious struggle ensues between the determined two, with the director (Gary Zinter) in the middle. The drama on stage concerns Medea (Slinger in this second role is simply marvelous) and her unfaithful husband Jason (Mike Triglia, whose transparent Greek costume raised my eyebrows considerably), and everyone knows how that story ends.

As with all of Mark Mitchell's art (he sings jazz standards at the Baltic Room, writes short fiction, and is now working on a screenplay--indeed, he is Seattle's Jean Cocteau) the play is light, charming, smart, sexy, and always in the twilight of saying something profound or falling apart into laughter.

If All about Medea is light, charming, and oblivious, John Fisher's Medea the Musical is serious, sentient, and political. True, it is a comedy with lots of laughs, music, and flamboyant acting, but it wants to do much more than simply entertain us; it also wants to address feminist concerns within the context of contemporary queer theater.

This play presents another gay staging of Medea that goes all wrong when the main gay actor (Jeffrey Resta, who plays Jason), falls in love with the straight leading actress (Anne Guetti, who plays Medea). Paul, as Jason is called when he is backstage, is confounded by his sudden attraction to her, as he has not desired a woman since kindergarten. When the two move in together, Elsa, as Medea is called backstage, begins to express her unhappiness with the way Medea (a woman) is portrayed in straight and gay productions of the play. Her new boyfriend, now ostracized from the gay community, sympathizes with her concerns.

During rehearsals, both conspire to radically change the play so that it accommodates a feminist agenda. The director of the musical is appalled by these changes, and maintains that the musical stay gay. But the actors continue to defy him, and as no resolution is made between the feminist and gay agendas, the play falls apart on opening night. Though this collapse is considered a great success by a theater critic within the play (a reporter from Time magazine, who loves the way things have spun out of control), it is in reality (the audience's reality) a great failure because the collapse and confusion implies that queer theater needs a closed system of meaning with specific gay tropes if it is to work. Without this center, nothing holds and chaos rules. In the end, one much prefers the motions of a meaningful Medea that has Medea killing her kids to get back at duplicitous Jason, rather than the sprawl of an unresolved Medea that has Jason and Medea and whoever else killing the kids, which is how this play ends.