YOU THOUGHT THAT YOU HAD ISSUES?
Your favorite Euripidean diva has some serious beef with just about everything. In Emilio Williams’ new one woman show, Medea’s Got Some Issues, she’s pissed at Jason for screwing the princess, at Americans for not recognizing that she’s actually Latina (and casting girls from Jersey in her role instead), and at David Mamet for going Republican. Williams, who wrote the award winning Tables and Beds, as well as Smartphones: A Pocket-Sized Farce, has constructed a witty, confrontational show giving us a contemporary look into the psyche of Euripides’ Medea.
Medea’s Got Some Issues ran a three day preview in Chicago’s all Latina theatre, Teatro Luna, before its opening October 12th in New York as part of the United Solo Theatre Festival. While it wasn’t in final form when I saw it, this piece clearly has some real potential. It’s a stream-of-conscious monologue from the queen of infanticide herself. Medea has survived the millennia, and now seeks to tell her story in a proscenium theatre—she’s stuck, instead, at Teatro Luna.
As Medea, Ana Asensio has an unrivaled comic timing that drives this show. Asensio is deliciously vicious, but given Medea’s circumstances, with good reason. She powers through the script with twisted conviction, but not without acknowledging the subtleties of the role. The piece is broken into three chunks, between which Asensio incarnates the various feminists who have written on Medea. Together, Williams and Asensio craft a multi-dimensional, highly nuanced take on Medea, accounting for many of these different perspectives, and simultaneously affirm and jab at her stance as a feminist paragon.
But the fun is not just for the feminists. This piece takes shots at everything you hold sacred — from Euripides’ tragedies, ubiquitous in our cultural consciousness, to the indomitable career of Meryl Streep. Williams is a sharp-tongued critic of the state of the arts today, and an incredibly astute one at that. Medea is so desperate to tell her story in a “real theatre” (as opposed to a run-down storefront) that she all but mounts an audience member when she suspects he’s a friend of Chris Jones (critic for the Chicago Tribune). Then later, Williams has Asensio step into the perspective of a Euripides critic, who calls Williams and Asensio’s piece “cultural bile” for jabbing at the original work the way he does.
While it’s all in good fun, he makes a distinct point about the effects of venerating the “high art” of theatre. We define it, glorify it, and take it personally when someone as smart and meticulous as Williams comes along to deconstruct it. In Medea’s Got some Issues, Williams takes a solid stand outside of the theatrical mainstream. I said as much in my review of his Smartphones, but I’ll say it again with conviction: his work is a testament to the vast potential of the avant garde.
While Williams’ playwriting ought to be celebrated, this show is not without some minor hiccups. It’s near impossible to make a one-actor piece that doesn’t meander a bit— it’s stream of consciousness, sure, but we can tell when Williams is reaching to incorporate themes that he just refused to leave out. As a result, segues into new subject matter are a bit forced. Asensio makes her character a bit scatterbrained to account for these jumps, which mostly works, but even then it can be difficult to follow her train of thought. Still, I expect that many of these issues will be work-shopped out before the show starts its full run. Medea’s Got some Issues may have some small issues of its own, but it’s a damn good, hilarious, and exceptionally clever show that is not to be missed.
Medea’s Got Some Issues
Teatro Luna in Chicago
ended on September 29, 2012 in Chicago
but plays at the United Solo Theatre Festival in New York City beginning October 12, 2012