A memorable ‘Medea’

Spoiler alert: The plot of “Medea” will be revealed here. For those without knowledge of Greek mythology, you may want to stop reading. Others — whose memories of Jason and Medea may be a tad rusty — might find it handy to bone up with this truncated recap.

For starters, Jason dumps Medea, wife and mother of his two boys, to marry a younger, hotter babe whose father, Creon, is the filthy rich king of Corinth. Nothing modern-day sociologists would find surprising there.

Within 24 hours of his betrayal, Jason’s spurned spouse is banished from the kingdom, sent to live on the mean streets of Greece without so much as a drachma to her name. Not only does her banishment come centuries before the social safety net’s advent, but Medea also suffers heaps of public scorn and the usual pariah status.

Still, the strong-willed Medea will not go gently into that good night: “Oh triple fool,” she cries out, “you have given me time.”

And a plot that makes “The War of the Roses” look like an exercise in marital merriment thickens.

“Help me to remember the venomous fire,” she implores the sorceress Hecate, the “Queen of the Night” and her soul sister. Medea’s vast knowledge of potions and the dark arts is legendary and spot-on deadly.

And you know what they say about hell having no fury like a woman scorned, especially a woman whose track record includes betraying her father and murdering her brother to promote her husband’s social standing.

Jason should have known he’d get his head handed to him.

Ah, “the violence of love,” the Muses wail, trying to dissuade Medea from her retribution. But there’s no stopping the avenging soon-to-be ex-wife from calling on the gods of the underworld to back her up.

Woe betides our hapless Argonaut. That’s some vindictive crew.

Anissa Parekh plays the lead in the Port City Playhouse’s production. Remember that name, as Parekh — trained at the Studio Theatre Acting Conservatory and The Shakespeare Theatre Co. — is a skillful actor with an immediately evident depth of knowledge of stagecraft. It is thanks to her that this production has meat on its ancient bones. Her ability to center the other performers by dint of her powerful stage presence saves it from drowning in the Aegean Sea.

Though I am a huge fan of Port City Playhouse and its bold choices, this drama does not match the company’s usual high-caliber performances, except for Parekh’s commanding presence.

Costumes are neither period nor contemporary but a hodgepodge of ’30s, ’40s and ’50s retro dresses with aprons and randomly chosen military uniforms for a few of the men. The primitive set includes a small refrigerator used as a stool, several chairs and a panel with double doors situated at the edge of the raised stage.

A black box theater style would have been less distracting than watching actors yank at sticky doors while trying to wriggle through the narrow space without toppling off the proscenium. Somewhere Dionysus and the Muses are cringing.

But, notwithstanding the awkward production values and throwaway supporting roles, see it for Parekh. Her Medea is memorable.

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