Meet The New Medea, Same as the Old Medea
Well, maybe not. Marcus Sharp (played by Tom Hewitt) is a gay, cis male contemporary version of the mythical Medea who, as revenge on her partner for leaving her, kills her two sons along with her partner’s new love and the lover’s father.
In playwright and director Aaron Mark’s version, Marcus is being interviewed in prison to tell how he came to be there. We’re prepared to some extent by the observation that “horrific things do happen in real life” (and later in the play Marcus himself reminds the audience of real-life filicides, including murders committed by Andrea Yates and Susan Smith), but as Hewitt transforms from interviewer Steve to Marcus himself, there’s a sense almost of relaxation. This is no Hannibal Lecter: Marcus is, initially at least, totally relatable. We understand his professional frustration as acting roles are few and far between, his increasing financial woes, and how his life is transformed by meeting his own Jason, a younger man who becomes the love of his life.
And when things turn bad for Marcus and he is finally driven to murder, he is still in so many ways relatable—his panic, his astonishment at his own feelings and acts—that the sheer ordinariness of the horror is truly underscored: the audience realizes that under the right circumstances, anyone can be capable of murder. And it’s difficult to not feel sympathy as Jason gradually isolates Marcus from his past, his connections, and his independence—a process that’s the norm for abusive relationships. Jason deliberately makes Marcus completely dependent upon himself for everything… and then drops him on a dime when he meets someone new. Most people can relate to the pain of that kind of betrayal. Most people won’t make the same choices Marcus does to resolve the situation, but his choices, bad as they are, are still understandable.
The reason they’re understandable is derived in large part from Tom Hewitt’s brilliant performance. It’s hard to imagine anyone else pulling this off so fantastically. His Marcus is compelling, not just telling a story but bringing the audience inside his mind and heart so they experience it with him. He is alone on the stage with no décor and nothing distracting—and he viscerally holds us rapt for the full 90 minutes of the play. His Marcus isn’t perfect, and his complaints about his background and life situation are indeed very self-centered… but in the hands of any other actor, they’d be construed as whining. Not so with Hewitt. Nothing in what he is doing—changing the modulation of his voice to portray other characters, his gestures, his very posture—is over the top. He is, in a word, perfect.
“If I can do it, anyone can,” Marcus says, and anyone being honest would concur. G.K. Chesterton’s Father Brown, a priest not unacquainted with murder, makes the same point over and over: most killings are ill-informed attempts to deal with untenable situations. Hewitt’s Marcus brings us so deeply into his own untenable situation that while we may like to think we would make different choices in his place, there’s still a nagging bit of doubt left in our minds when the play has ended.
And that alone is brilliant.
(Postscript from this reviewer: Audience members are advised to become familiar with Euripides’ Medea—or Anouilh’s, or Jeffers’, or any of the myriad variations—before coming to the theater. Doing so might eliminate audience members disrupting the performance by leaving the play midway through.)
Another Medea is at the Provincetown Theater through October 29th … Fridays and Saturdays 7pm, Sundays at 2.