Perhaps Russell was fooled by Rudall's translation. Because it is so plain-spoken, in modern English vernacular (although never veering into slang or colloquialism), there may be moments that seem casual and conversational, though they are not. The simplicity of the language is the basis of both rhythm and pace, and also makes the passion and ideas of the play absolutely clear. Rudall's translation also preserves the deep irony, even sarcasm, of Euripides, and Russell fully understands it, to his credit. "I would fight three times in battle rather than give birth but once," Medea declares to a warrior in one of the play's double-edged and mocking lines.
In one of the most anticipated performances of the year, ATC ensemble member Carmen Roman (winner of a 1999 Joseph Jefferson Award for her portrayal of Maria Callas in Master Class) takes on Medea. She brings physical stature and noble bearing, and a deep and rolling voice, to the role. She also possesses a pitiable understanding of the trap in which Medea finds herself, often expressed through the eyes or through a sadness around the mouth. "I understand the horror of what I must do. But passion is stronger than reason, and passion is the grief of the world," Medea says in the play's most fundamental line.
Another 1999 Jeff Award winner, Yasen Peyankov, is Jason. He brings a stalwart, world-weary, even slightly cynical quality to the role; a manliness without braggadocio. Peyankov's receding hairline and trim but un-heroic physique also provide Jason with a middle-aged look, and suggested a hero who may have outsmarted his opponents, rather than outfought them.
Russell has chosen a timeless look for the production that has both classical and contemporary reference. Scenic designer Scott Cooper provides what appears to be an iron-clad and rusting palace, filling the stage with solid and windowless walls. Dead vines cling to the side, and a curving staircase sweeps out on one side, the only way in or out. It could be modern or ancient architecture. One criticism: fully half the house can't see a platform where two live musicians play Eastern-influenced music (composed by ATC ensemble member Dawn Bach); music which mainly backs the choral odes.
The costumes by Jana Stauffer include ankle-length sleeveless dresses of dark colors for the women, simple and modern in cut yet suggestive of tunics and chitons. Further, the primitive jewelry and delicate tattoos of the chorus tie this production to seminal theatircal rituals. The men have more eclectic garb, ranging from a semi-military uniform for Jason, to royal robes for Aegeus and Creon, to tunics for Medea's sons and for the messenger who brings the news of the deaths of Creon and his daughter (played with a splendid balance of excitement and loathing by Ron Wells).