Betrayal, then bloodbath

Titan Theatre Co., the resident troupe at Queens Theatre, has enjoyed tremendous success with its presentations of fast-paced, somewhat abbreviated versions of the classics.

As the current season got underway in October, Titan’s co-founder, Lenny Banovez, expressed trepidation over including “Medea,” Euripides’ ancient tale of love and revenge, in the lineup.

Admitting at the time that producing the play would be “a risk,” Banovez forged ahead, adapting the play from a translation by Nefeli Vasiliadou. The world premiere of the new interpretation is now on view at the theater, with the run extended through March 4, the result of a water main break in Flushing Meadows Corona Park which caused the cancellation of the original opening weekend. Reservations are highly recommended as tickets are selling fast.

Banovez has directed with his customary creative vision, placing the actors on a bare stage backed by synchronized projections that illuminate the action. And he sees to it that all spectators, seated around the stage in semicircular fashion, have a good view.

His adaptation may prove controversial, particularly among purists who might be shocked to find several plot variances and that several of the characters, originally males, have been reinvented for female actors.

Set in Corinth, the tale, based on the myth of the heroic Jason and his “barbarian” of a wife, Medea, is almost unbearably bleak. At the outset, Medea comes to understand that her husband has been unfaithful and that she is about to be cast aside for another woman, a princess, the daughter of King Creon (here portrayed as a queen). This realization sets Medea on a path to unspeakable revenge.

Medea is an undoubtedly complicated figure, one who would challenge any actress, and Leah Gabriel, one of three Titan resident artists in the cast, immerses herself in the role. She is well-paired with fellow resident Tristan Colton, who imbues Jason with a smugness that was met with an occasional snicker from the audience.

Completing the trio is Alyssa Van Gorder, as Aegeus, friend to Medea, and here depicted as queen rather than king of Athens. Gabriel and Van Gorder have a particularly effective moment as they enter into a mutually beneficial pact.

Lindsay Nance as Glauce, Jason’s royal intended, and Molly Thomas, as Creon, put in brief but effective appearances. Rachel Schmeling, nanny to Medea’s two children, comes into her own during a long, beautifully delivered monologue late in the proceedings. Silas Wade and Ella Taylor remain focused as the young son and daughter (originally two sons).

But the most memorable performance comes unexpectedly from an actress in a relatively minor role: Ellen Fiske, as Medea’s loyal (it might be said to a fault) serving woman. Whether speaking at center stage or silent off to the side, she remains the most consistently believable and realistic character onstage. Her heartbreak over her mistress’s situation is etched all over her face. Her agony is palpable.

Costume designer Leah Smith has provided an attractive array of period outfits; Alan Piotrowicz’s lighting scheme is appropriately atmospheric; Chris Kateff was responsible for the effective projection design; and Jessica McIlquham provided the finishing touches with her sound design.

While not as emotionally impactful as it might have been, this production benefits greatly from its accessibility. It tells this complex tale in a tight, gripping 90 minutes. While there were several youngsters in the audience at a production last weekend, it is not necessarily recommended for children, especially those experiencing live theater for the first time.

Still one of the most frequently performed of the Greek tragedies, “Medea” most assuredly remains relevant in today’s society.

When: Thu.-Sat., March 1-3, 7:30 p.m.; Sun., March 4, 4 p.m.
Where: Queens Theatre, 14 United Nations Ave. South, Flushing Meadows Corona Park
Tickets:$18. (718) 760-0064,