Euripides’ Greek tragedy “Medea” was shocking and it’s still quite shocking even when revived today, given much of the content and sequence of events. That a woman could commit such atrocities in the name of revenge is unthinkable and yet, makes for an astoundingly dramatic, incredibly engrossing, and gut-wrenching play. Luis Alfaro, using Euripides’ material as his source, developed “Mojada: A Medea in Los Angeles.” While not exactly emulating the original, Alfaro manages to bring a similar intensity and deftly draws audiences into the inner life of Medea over the course of 90 minutes.
…a fluid, haunting production…searing storytelling and engaging characters/actors…
Alfaro’s script sticks fairly close to Euripides’ main plot points: a journey, a betrayal, and the unthinkable. Medea follows Jason to Los Angeles. They leave Mexico; they uproot their child, Acan; and they ride “like animals” in the back of a rundown truck only to be abandoned in middle of the desert as they fight their way toward the “promised land,” America. Along this arduous journey, horrific events befall them, one after another. It is tremendously difficult for the family, who also have Tita in tow—the woman who’s taken care of Medea since she was a child.
Once in Los Angeles, Jason begins to be seduced by a lifestyle that is a far cry from the “old country” the family left behind. Ultimately, he’s seduced by more than just a lavish lifestyle. Sadly, this family quickly begins to fall apart as Jason’s domineering boss, Armida, infiltrates her way into their lives, leaving Medea quite alone, left to lick the deep wounds of infidelity and betrayal. Elena Velasco’s task as director is admittedly a bit of a Herculean one. She has to bring together a number of ‘big ticket’ themes—more so than the burden Euripides carried in the original—and in the process, create a harmonious production that makes the unspeakable ending seem a logical, albeit tragic link in the chain of events. Velasco’s choices work, and to her credit, those choices imbue the actors with even more gravitas than they might otherwise have had. It is a fluid, haunting production where dialogue, pantomime, and even some dance combine to evoke the stuff of which nightmares are made.
Velasco has a very talented cast with which to work in staging this production, beginning with Medea herself played by Victoria “Tori” Gomez. While there are points at which her naïveté and utter earnestness are perhaps a bit overdone, Gomez ultimately gives us a woman convincingly torn between two worlds and all that those worlds represent. The struggle she enacts lends great depth to the character. Jason, played by Camilo Linares, is just despicable enough to elicit the requisite groans, and yet, Linares also manages to portray Jason with a hint of goodheartedness, such that even the audience buys it on occasion. It is a solid performance.
Mariela Lopez-Ponce plays Tita, the character who for me seems somewhat problematic—nothing at all to do with Lopez-Ponce’s performance as in fact, she is the best thing about the production. Rather, the role of Tita is ambiguous and seemingly directionless. Is she a bystander commenting on the action? Is she the spiritual healer meant to rescue Medea should she fall? Is she a representative of the old country and old ways, resistant to all those Americanisms threatening to remake this family in the brashest way possible? Is she a direct counterpoint to Jason? Lopez-Ponce does an amazing job with this role, eliciting laughter and tears and making it look effortless as she goes.
The other notable performance is that of Diana Gonzalez-Ramirez as Josephina. Also having immigrated from Mexico, Josephina “Josie” is someone with whom Medea can commiserate and ostensibly bond. Gonzalez-Ramirez’s performance is punctuated by comic light-heartedness and a devil-may-care whimsy, even in the face of the extreme hardships that they all face.
The set design (Mariana C. Fernandez) works well, enhancing the blurriness between the old world and the new. The rolling pieces, helping to elucidate Medea and company’s journey to America, are brilliantly utilized. Taylor Aragon’s costume design is also to be commended for speaking to the central themes of the play as well as further elucidating that which makes each of the characters unique. “Mojada” may not be for everyone given some of the extreme subject matter it covers, but the searing storytelling and engaging characters/actors featured definitely make a case for those who do enjoy Greek tragedy with a highly compelling modern twist.
Running time: 90 minutes with no intermission.
Advisory: Recommended for adult audiences. True to the original Greek tragedy, the play includes mature situations, violence, adultery and the murder of a child as well as adult language in both English and Spanish. Please be advised that this performance contains violence and reference to sexual assault.
“Mojada” runs through May 7, 2023 at 1st Stage Theatre, 1524 Spring Hill Road, Tysons, VA 22102. For more information and tickets, Calling the 1st Stage box office at 703-854-1856 or go online. Masks are required for all ticket holders.