May 20 to June 5, 2011

Passion and Destiny in Patricia Crespin’s “The Medea Complex”

Albuquerque playwright Patricia Crespin’s dramatic tale of passion, violence, and revelation

Date May 31, 2011 at 2:33 PM

Author Jeffrey Laing

Publication SantaFe.com

Categories Performing Arts

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From May 20 to June 5, 2011, Teatro Paraguas (TP) and miDnite's cHiLd (mc) will be presenting Albuquerque playwright Patricia Crespin's dramatic tale of passion, violence, and revelation, THE MEDEA COMPLEX (MC). Invoking the spirit and narratives of Greek mythology and New Mexico's La Llorona, MC dramatizes the last hours of a Chicana woman on death row who has been convicted of murdering her two daughters and their father's wife and her father, a well-respected senator. Silent until this point on her reasons for such heinous acts, the prisoner summons Gilberto, a Mexican journalist, who has the career opportunity of a lifetime to present Medea's final words to an inquisitive public. Medea weaves an incredible tale of passion, jealousy, rage, violence, and revenge that beggars the imagination and pulls Gilberto into her narrative web as she reveals her private psychology with the aid of a guitarrista who plays the popular love songs of Cuco Sanchez. Questions of truth and reality do battle with deception and enchantment (An oft-employed ancient world represntation of Medea was as a priestess of Hecate, in essence, a witch) as Gilberto (and the audience) must decide on the final "truth" of Medea's life and story.

I

In telephone conversations on May 2, 2011, with Medea's co-producers Riti Sachdeva (mc) and Argos MacCallum (TP), I had the opportunity of discussing their upcoming production of MC. Riti Sachdeva noted that all the women involved in this production-director, actors, and designers-- have a long history with MC, dating from its debut performance at UNM's "Words of Fire" Play Festival in the Spring of 2008. She also pointed out that in a convergence of talent and serendipity this production will perform at Chicago's Prop Theater (tentative date: mid-September of 2011). Scott Vehill of the Prop Theater was a guest director at the "Words of Fire" Festival in 2008 and was moved and impressed by MC. When Riti met Scott by chance at last December's National New Play Network Conference in Denver, she mentioned that she was co-producing a revival of MC, and he promptly invited her to bring the production to Chicago.

Riti Sachdeva is also playing the title character in this production. She has nothing but praise for her cast and her director as she prepares to open the play for a May 13-15 run at Albuquerque's National Hispanic Cultural Center: "This is the best cast I have ever worked with...[They are] phenomenal....I am learning from them pushing me." She further notes that her fellow actors have helped her with a very challenging role by their generosity and good-naturedness. In a like manner, Riti praises Valli Rivera who is "wonderful" and "a directorial genius.": "Her method of directing is very physical and exploratory...Some scenes are precisely choreographed and others are mostly improvised in the moment." To potential audience members of MC, Riti Sachdeva argues that the play is "part of our lineage. It is such a contemporary and accessible piece...exciting and fiery." She encourages us "to support live art and new work."

Co-producer and TP President Argos MacCallum has taken Riti Sachdeva's words to heart. In the past seven years, TP has produced the new work of eight local New Mexican dramatists. Argos finds that Crespin's concept in MC "is brilliant and liberating and allows us to see Medea afresh.... [The work] is suspenseful and dramatically alive. It does not allow [the audience] to take the easy way and cast Medea as a villain." In a final observation, Argos revealed that TP in keeping with its commitment to present important and challenging work is seriously considering mounting a production of Ariel Dorfman's Death and the Maiden in the fall..

II

Patricia Crespin is a native New Mexican playwright with two degrees from state universities-a BA in vocal performance from New Mexico Highlands University and an MFA in dramatic writing from the University of New Mexico-Albuquerque. She is the author of We Are Hispanic American Women...Ok? (WAHAWO), a bittersweet story of four generations of women in one family facing a familial tragedy, that was produced to critical and popular plaudits by Teatro Paraguas and was subsequently made into a ninety-minute film entitled, Before We Say Good-Bye (BWSG). (By a sheer quirk of the scheduling gods, BWSG is being screened on May 20-21 at Santa Fe's Center for Contemporary Arts. Please phone the theater for times and ticket prices.)

In a telephone conversation with Patricia Crespin on May 4, 2011, I discovered the dramatist has a long fascination with and attraction to the La Llorona myth: "I had heard different variations of this story and wondered what would drive a person [to such extreme actions]." When her UNM instructor Jim Linnel gave his class the assignment of adapting a Greek myth for the stage, Patricia Crespin was prepared: "I had the story of this defiant woman in my head... [I wanted to tell this story] in a sincere and graphic way." Furthermore, in her desire to "tell the stories of my people," the traditional narrative of La Llorona and the contemporary social theme of abuse merge to form the structure and argument of MC.

Patricia Crespin emphasizes that Medea is a victim of abuse and that the Cuco Sanchez songs "take her back to a safe place" which is the path of "her inner world" as she travels between the reality of her place of interrogation and incarceration to her sustaining memories. After observing Gilberto's work and perseverance for five years, she senses his nobility and trusts him to communicate her story to the public.

Yet for all its seriousness of purpose, violent acts, and adult language; MC is an exciting, swiftly moving, very compassionate theatrical experience without a hint off didacticism. As with real life, Patricia Crespin doesn't provide any final answers but raises questions and subjects that are too often ignored.

III

MC Director Valli Marie Rivera has a strong affinity for Patricia Crespin's work: "I believe in her work. This work in particular is a gem." When Rivera first read MC she was at a loss: "I didn't know what it meant. However, the world and the story got to me. It was a woman's story and told from a woman's point of view. A woman, a mother, does violent, monstrous things but I still had empathy for her....I wanted to know how this [response] happened?"

In working with actor Riti Sachdeva, Valli has uncovered some of the many different ways we are human. Medea is a character who is a victim of her physical beauty and is attempting to justify the unjustifiable: the murder of one's children. The central tension in the play is concretized in the physical environment-dance, gestures, the round bed (representing human intimacy)-and the psychological games we play to get what we want. Medea's displays of passion which range from murderous rage to loving sensitivity "peel back the skin of what we are." Medea is selling her truth in the face of Gilberto's disfavor, machismo, and anger. She is both victim and victimizer and posits destiny as the default position for all humanity.

Valli Marie Rivera believes that MC is a "powerful, distinct, beautiful, horrible, stimulating, and, ultimately, satisfying experience" that is revealing "where we are as humans" and " is a play to see and to discuss."

IV

--The Medea Complex will be presented on Friday and Saturday nights at 8 P.M. (May 20 & 21, May 27 & 28, and June 3 & 4) and on Sundays at 2 P.M. (May 22 & 29 and June 5) at Teatro Paraguas Studio (3221 Richards Lane B, Santa Fe).

--Ticket prices are $15 & $12 for students and seniors. Sundays are by donation.

--For further information go to www.teatroparaguas.org or (505) 424-1601.

THIS PRODUCTION IS FOR MATURE AUDIENCES.

Cast
Lenore Armijo (Guitarrista)
Ed Chavez (Tito)
Angelo Jaramillo (Jason)
Mario Moreno (Gilberto)
Riti Sachdeva (Medea)

Production

Patricia Crespin (author)
Valli Marie Rivera (director)
Josh Bien (lights & set)
Leslie Joy Coleman (costumes)

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