Mojada: Greek Tragedy Comes to Malibu
The drama of Ancient Greece does not feel like a good fit for 21st-century Southern California. The deepening dread that ripens into full-blown tragedy, all accompanied by a chorus whose only duty seems to be to make sure you remember you’re watching a major downer, will not be anyone’s idea of a great alternative to the beach in summertime.
The new production Mojada: A Medea in Los Angeles splits the difference as a Greek tragedy performed at the beach. The Fleischman Theater at the Getty Villa, to be exact. The open-air auditorium just off PCH in Malibu closely recreates the experience of attending a play in ancient Athens. This updating of the Euripides classic drama is relevant to this place and time. The result, while still depressing, makes for a bracing evening of entertainment.
The original “Medea” was first performed in Athens in 431 B.C. The title character was known in legend as the granddaughter of the Greek god Helios and the daughter of a king. After falling in love with Jason, who steals the Golden Fleece from her family, she escapes with him only after killing her brother. They attempt to return but are exiled. She faces the subsequent loss of her family in the brutal fashion common to Greek drama.
To update the play for modern-day Los Angeles, playwright Luis Alfaro draws upon this theme of wanderers without a home to call their own and applies it to undocumented Angelenos. In this case, Medea (played by Sabina Zuniga Varela) is a seamstress who works at home while her partner Hason (Justin Huen) has progressed beyond day laborer to working for a wealthy widow, Armida (Marlene Forte). Her shadowy plans for Hason come to light; they threaten his relationship with Medea and their family. Her drastic response shows the dark side of starting life over in L.A.
Despite the bleakness of the story, this version of “Medea” is fascinating. Everyone in the cast does excellent work, including VIVIS, who plays Tida. This one-person chorus tells us much of the story without overshadowing it. As a bonus, this play has found its perfect home in the monument to antiquities that is the Getty Villa. In this space the play works well as comment on the city in which it is set.
“Mojada: A Medea in Los Angeles” at the Barbara and Lawrence Fleischman Theater at the Getty Villa. Thursdays – Saturdays through October 3.
Louis Burklow (aka, Hollywood Country Boy), Senior Staff Writer, Phoenix Genesis
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