Tuesday, September 15, 2020

347. MEDEA AND JASON. From my (unpublished) ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE NEW YORK STAGE, 1970-1975


Maria Aho, Chet Doherty.

MEDEA AND JASON [Drama/Greece/Marriage/Period] AD/D: Eugenie Leontovich; SC: Robinson Jeffers’s version of Euripides’ Medea; CH: Nora Peterson; S: Alan Beck; C/M: Thom Edlun; L: Lee Goldman; P: Catherine Ellis; T: Little Theatre; 10/2/74 (1)

In a way, this play can be considered a revival of a revival in that it was an adaptation of a 1947 adaptation of a Greek classic whose Broadway production had starred Judith Anderson and John Gielgud. But the 1947 play was itself in many ways a new play, and Eugenie Leontovich’s version of that version was treated as a similarly new work. As it was, it turned out to be a totally unsuccessful drama that Clive Barnes dismissed as “not interesting at all.” “Everything about the evening was numbingly awful,” he averred, an opinion that helped it vanish after a single showing.

It began with a prologue, set in a modern “Greek bistro,” consisting of a bacchanal of seminude dancers, and then moved into the ancient story. Adaptor-director Leontovich, a respected, Russian-born actress, tried to give the play some arty effects, but her lack of insight into the text, and the horrendous acting of her company, turned the production into what Martin Gottfried deemed an “embarrassing” affair.

Maria Aho, a Finnish actress making her New York debut, played Medea “with all the malevolent dignity of a street peddler,” noted Douglas Watt. Richmond F. Johnson was Jason, and Chet Doherty was Creon. The most notable name in the cast was that of distinguished Austrian-born architect/actress Lilia Skala, recipient of an Oscar nomination for Lilies of the Field, who played the Nurse.