Director Stefan Novinski has set his production of Euripides' tragedy in a large kitchen, and, as the show begins, we see the shiny metal of the sinks and the stoves, the white of the tile and the aprons worn by the workers as they chop vegetables and prepare dishes—a gleaming antiseptic hive of culinary activity. And then we hear the low, deep moans coming from what looks like a supervisor's office, moans that turn into bestial growls. Before a word is spoken, we know that something very bad is in that room. However, when Medea (Lisa Tharps), resplendent in crimson attire, is finally enticed out by her concerned staff, she seems reasonable enough. The beast is at bay, for the moment. She has work to do: Her husband Jason (Andrew Borba) has betrayed her by leaving her to marry the King's daughter, after Medea has sacrificed much of her life to him. Vengeance is the order of the day, and before she is done Medea will turn that spotless kitchen into a charnel house.
Novinski's concept of setting the play in a big kitchen works visually and symbolically, and Paul Roche's world premiere translation is as clear and pointed as can be. Tharps is a marvel as Medea, eloquent in her rage in a thrillingly dynamic performance. Borba makes for a wonderfully condescending Jason, and his desolation at the play's end is powerful. Peter Trencher is quite amusing as the trusting Aegeus, and Jeff Marlow is fantastic, taking a relatively small part and performing it so well that his scene reverberates through the rest of the play. The rest of the cast is very good, but this is Tharps' show, and for two hours she owns that stage with ferocity and wit. Mention must be made of Donna Marquet's outstanding set design: Anyone who hadn't been to the theatre before would assume that the set was entirely real and had been there for a long time. For those who feel like there's no life left in the old classics, check out this Medea: It's a killer.
"Medea," presented by and at Theatre @ Boston Court, 70 N. Mentor Ave., Pasadena. Thu.-Sat. 8 p.m., Sun. 3 p.m. Feb. 19-Mar. 27. $30. (626) 683-6883.