If we look at the ancient Greeks as classicists, it's probably because of the image we take from stereotypes based on Periclean Athens, the architecture of ancient temples, and the revered plays of the tragedians: Sophocles, Aeschyles, Euripides.
But the Greeks had a sense of humor, too, and they used it to mock, lampoon, and satirize: indeed, the very word "satire" derives from the Greek tradition of the satyr play, an irreverent take on tragic trilogies like the Oedipus cycle.
So when Ryan Landry and his Gold Dust Orphans come along with their rollicking take on Medea, their outrageous, irreverent sense of play fully engaged, they are only honoring tradition--both that of the ancient Greeks, and that of contemporary American theatre, paying homage as they do to the Charles Ludlam's riff of the play, written in 1984.
This is the story of a middle-aged woman who gave up everything to leave home and head of to the suburbs of the ancient world with her man: in this case, Jason of the Argonauts. But when Jason leaves Medea for a younger woman (a princess, no less), well... let's just recite that famed quote about Hell and scorned women, shall we?
Except it's not just fury that makes this play sizzle. Landry plays the title role with one eye on pop culture (love that Joan Crawford hair), and with her Orphans in good, tight form around him: the aptly-named Afrodite plays a wicked good nurse, Mark Leahy gets his beefcake on as Jason, Scott Martino crackles as a messenger of uproariously gory tidings (plus, Martino does the costuming duties proud), Olive Another plays Medea's friend on high Aegeus like a cross between Elton John and Charles Nelson Reilly (to whom the production is dedicated), and Billy Hough, Hattie Chapeau, and Deborah Downer play assorted Kings, ghouls, and kids. If everyone in the chairs is having fun, it's chiefly because everyone on stage (and behind it: look for split-second timing on the light and sound cues) is obviously having such a good time.
Medea plays through March 15 at Machine, in the basement of the Ramrod bar, at 1256 Boylston Street (behind Fenway Park). Performance schedule: Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights at 8:00 p.m. Tickets cost $28, cash at the door; credit cards accepted for pre-orders. to pre-order, call TheaterMania at 866-811-4111 or go online to TheaterMania.com