Great tragedy or just tragic?

It seems as if up is down and down is up in Villanova University’s rendition of Euripides’ Medea. Everything is reversed. Where the audience should feel pity and remorse, the college’s adaptation leaves room for only anger and bitterness.

Wholly unmoved by either Jason’s lament, enacted by Chris Serpentine, or Medea’s final stand, performed by Kimberly S. Fairbanks, I sat there wondering what I’d just paid nine dollars for. I looked around the stage, eager to place my eyes on anything other than Serpentine’s ridiculous writhing form or Fairbanks’ over-dramatized glare, and found the set to be much more entertaining.

The design and dressing of the space was picture perfect. Created with nods to the 1950s, the cracked plaster wall, the large, wooden double doors and double-paned glass window took the audience  there effortlessly.

Sand in the corners of the stairs, large flagstone on the terrace and moving boxes gave the sense of a greatness that had been lost–of a place that had once hosted grand parties and vibrant dinners and now only served as a prison for Medea’s grief.

Medea’s sorrow, however, was overshadowed by the stunning collective and individual performances of the chorus, the messenger and the nurse.

The chorus, played by Jessica Bedford, Lizzy Dalton-Negron, Stephanie King, Gigi McGraw and Kathleen Mulhearn, sang with sincerity and truth.

They, along with the messenger, played by Will Windsor Erwin, were altogether more compelling than the play’s leads. The conviction with which Erwin communicated the horror he had seen as the princess suffered a most gruesome death made my skin prick with fear of such evil.

Danielle DeStefano’s portrayal of the nurse, her wholly unspoiled attitude and honest relation to the audience, was uniquely refreshing. The only thing truly interesting about Serpentine’s performance was the way his cigarette smoke lingered and slowly crept toward the audience.

Villanova’s performance just goes to show that it doesn’t matter how much acting experience a diva has under her belt, she can still be outshined by a lesser-known actor with star potential.

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