Medea’s got some issues (and so do you)
by Paul Kubicki
Medea’s Got Some Issues is a bit of a Trojan Horse. Sure, its giddy, irreverent wit invites you to revel in schadenfreude at the suffering Medea caused. This won me over when I saw it work-shopped in 2012. But for me, the cryptic joke underpinning this vicious little play didn’t emerge for a while, and it’s more brutal than its clever trappings.
You see, Medea’s “issues” all stem from one primary problem: she is expected to embody everything, all at once. In one play Medea is a protagonist, a victim, and a mass murderer; she’s a radical, an icon, and an everywoman; she’s a foreigner and she’s Western cannon; she’s a duel between second and third wave feminism, and a misogynist cautionary tale; she’s a struggling actress, an archetypal diva, and a vicious critic; she’s a femme fatale and an old maid; she’s a sacred cow, an insufferable ham, and a tasteless butcher; she’s a snobby demigod who has been slumming it for a few thousand years, and she isn’t above begging.
Medea’s not all that easy to relate to, but come on, give her a break. That’s a lot for one woman to carry— just ask Hillary Clinton. It’s an unfair, absurd, and sometimes hilarious task.
And what happens to a character saddled with all of our cultural baggage? Medea tries to explain herself while juggling everything we’ve thrown at her since Euripides committed her to paper. She does her best to address all of our issues—the personal, the political, the particular, the universal. The joke is, she can’t. There’s no reconciliation. Sorry. This woman is a mess.
From there, any representative quality you thrust on her carries a grim conclusion. Perhaps Medea is the ultimate paradigm of the “feminine” and the radical “other,” as some of her proponents (apologists?) have claimed—is this what liberation looks like, then? Or maybe the joke is that we’re all Medea: fragmented, self-justifying shit-shows doomed to collapse under our cultural baggage. Or maybe I’m just making it all worse, asking her to carry another damn thing.
Not funny? Well, Medea’s more of a tragedy anyway. You know how it ends.
Paul Kubicki and Emilio Williams met when Paul attended a performance of Emilio’s “Smartphones, a pocket-size farce” at Trap Door Theatre in Chicago to write a review for Stage and Cinema. Later, Paul reviewed a workshop production of the US premiere production of “Medea’s Got Some Issues”. They became instant friends and collaborators. Paul will be in attendance at Stage773, Saturday February 27th. for this new production.