“MMC”, a guest review of an OSF Play

“Medea Macbeth Cinderella”

Karen’s Review of MMC:

This is the fourth iteration of a play-making process Bill Rauch began 30 years ago. At that time it was presented in his dormitory basement, then as an Actor’s Gang-Cornerstone production in 1998 in Los Angeles before opening the Yale Repertory Theatre’s season in 2002.

And, it is a fascinating idea.  Take three plays, one from each of “the three great populist movements of Western drama” – classical Greek tragedy, Elizabethan drama and the American musical – and meld them together into one theatrical experience.  Apparently, Rauch placed the scripts side by side and discovered a “synchronicity” of themes and events.  They all dealt with the same things: ambition, magic, transformation, the parent/child relationship, and the role of women in male-dominated societies. “Medea Macbeth Cinderella” pays homage to these themes and the three historical genres.
The actors evidence enormous talent and focus in maintaining their characters, speaking their lines, and moving around the stage in three entirely separate “realities” simultaneously. The characters in Medea are all played by women, while those in Macbeth are all played by men. Cinderella’s cast is “gender appropriate.”  Sometimes knowing that, and paying close attention to the costumes, are the only ways to keep the stories straight and identify which play is being “played.”
Supported by an excellent six-piece orchestra, the production boasts a multi-level set flexible enough to realize the activities of these three, entirely different genres.  You can see all of it, even if you cannot understand it.
The audience must work hard to separate which play they are hearing as the action occurs all at once everywhere on the stage.  It is difficult to maintain one’s attention and involvement in two stories and sets of characters at the same time, let alone three.  The different forms of language often act as a counterpoint to the music.  And, just when you cannot manage it for one minute longer, they all come together for a large musical number and, for a few moments, a cohesiveness results.  Then the chaos resumes.
Presumably, Bill Rauch and Tracy Young, who both adapted and directed the OSF production, are counting on the audience’s familiarity with the plays, the overlay of coincidences, and our willingness to expend the effort to understand what is happening onstage.  But they may have overestimated our interest and ability to synthesize the disparate stimuli coming at us across the footlights.  I had the distinct feeling that MMC is a lot more fun for the actors to perform than it is for the audience to watch.

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