DTC’s MEDEA/School For Wives – Review

Currently running at the Dallas Theater Center are two classic productions with nearly the same assemble cast.  Medea and The School For Wives run through March 29th.  Click through for my reviews of these two play.

Today, Sunday March 8th, is the International Day of Women and a fitting day to discuss the productions of Medea and The School For Wives at Dallas Theater Center.  In their own way both plays tackle the image and perception of women and how they are treated by their male counterparts.  We'll tackle the epic classic that is Medea first.

DTC's Medea header

In the Down Center Stage basement space at Kalita Humphreys Theater a 2,500 year old tragedy awaits you!  MEDEA is a showcase of the talents of Sally Nystuen Vahle as she brings to life the murderous daughter, wife, and mother figure.  For 90 uninterrupted minutes you witness the insanity that takes hold of this tragic woman.  The production starts long before you take your seat though, as the audience is broken up into women and men's groups.  The women's group has the privilege of entering the basement first and taking part in the "chorus" opening that is lead by Christie Vela.  Men are then lead into the basement and Medea's nurse (Liz Mikel) catches us up on her "sickly" master.  In Greek mythology, Medea was related to the Gods and eventual wife to hero Jason of the Argonauts.  But happy times have faded in Euripides play, translated by Robinson Jeffers, as Medea has seen her husband Jason go with the daughter of the King of Corinth and it's in this state of adultery that we find Medea and her children isolated from the rest of the country.  The nurse informs us of the angry borderline crazy speeches Medea has started to scream to the heavens.  A woman scorned, but a woman that has already seen her father and family destroyed by her now cheating hubby.  King Creon (Kieran Connolly) informs a distraught Medea that her and her two sons must leave for exile or be killed.  He fears the vengeance of Medea on his future son-in-law.  This vengeance is exactly what the play highlights.  Medea challenges everyone to explain her terrible fortune as she slowly creeps into a violent state of insanity.  The play revolves around this demise of insanity.  We see her terrible screaming turn into plotting and eventually the horrible action of paying Jason back for his crime of adultery. 

DTC Medea After Talk with view of Ramp

After every DTC production a cast member (or two) "Stay's Late" to discuss the production.  Liz Mikel stayed late for this play.  She discussed the unique element of using the basement for the play.  It's a logistical issue with DTC running both productions at the same time but also is a perfect setting in that it's the isolated almost claustrophobic space that helps put us in the right mood to witness Medea's violent demise.  The play harps on Sally's ability to convince us of Medea's terrible fall from grace so that her actions against her children are understandable if not severely tragic.  The real power in this DTC production is the choice to SHOW the children's fate.  Most productions utilize screams from out of view of the audience, this play shows us the murders!  Medea is a tough play to witness because of the terrifying ending that looms over each word.  We know what is coming.  But to actually witness it, really completes the horror.  The play itself is not so memorable as the final few sequences in which Medea puts her plot into action.  Those moments of seeing Medea run down her children right in front of us is ultimately worth the admission.  Not for the feint of heart, this production takes the violence to a new level.  A wonderful showcase of Sally's tremendous power as a female lead.

DTC's The School for Wives

DTC's take on Moliere's classic The School for Wives is a hilarious vibrant production that showcases the mad skills of Chamblee Ferguson as Arnolphe. The double bill of Medea and School for Wives looks to be contradictory but both showcase the old views of women as merely property that has the ability to bare children.  The School of Wives tongue-in-cheek nature highlights the lack of true reality.  As we see Arnolphe plot his "winning" of the simple minded Agnes (Morgan Laure) we are treated to the subtle intelligence in Moliere's take on women's role in society.  But just as Medea is a piece that allows for it's lead to command every second of your attention, so to does School for Wives allows you the ability to enjoy Chamblee's comedic talents.  I mean it's a production that ends with a literal pie throwing fight!  This is a much needed relief to the horrors held in the basement below. 

DTC Cast of Medea and School For Wives at DMA  – DTC Medea/The School for Wives casts.

The real power of the double bill is the fact that the casts are almost completely interchangeable.  All but 1 or 2 actors play roles in both productions.  The back-and-forth, upstairs-downstairs dynamic to this month's two plays is really a treat to witness.  Overall the productions are both well acted and beautifully staged.  Medea's final act is by far the most memorable and will be the most discussed but the fluid nature of Moliere's work is a real treat to see.  The School for Wives at DTC seems more goofy and accomplishes getting more laughs then straightforward takes on the work.  As DTC pushes the boundaries of Medea by showing the murders of the two sons, The School for Wives pushes the comedy boundary and does it well!

For more information and how to get tickets please visit the DTC website, HERE.

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