Review: Medea receives modern makeover in Moraga’s ‘The Hungry Woman’

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Thursday, December 7, 2006

Cherrie Moraga’s “The Hungry Woman” appropriates the Greek myth of Medea and enhances it with themes of Chicano nationalism, queer relationships and contemporary political tensions in the United States and Latin America. Though the play, performed last night in Leeds Theatre, has attracted much attention on campus for its lesbian love scenes, it offers more than prurient entertainment.

The play takes place in the aftermath of a future revolution, in which the warrior Medea (Angelica del Valle ’06) is exiled to Phoenix, Ariz., along with other queers of color. Medea’s ex-husband is played by chorus member Natalie Hirsch ’08, who transforms herself into Jason, dons a blazer and tie and deepens her voice effectively to convey an air of masculine authority. Jason casts away both Medea and their son, Choc Mool (Arjun Bhartia ’08), after he discovers Medea in bed with a woman, Luna (Jenny Garcia ’08). After living in exile for seven years, Medea’s relationships begin to crumble as Luna begins to stray and Jason reappears to claim custody of Choc Mool.

The production is one of contrast, with its script incorporating both English and Spanish and native spiritual practices while being set in the future. Though a recreation of a Greek tragedy, the play includes both humorous scenes such as a girls’ night on the town in a lesbian dance club where the ladies line-dance to a disco remix of “The Hustle” and intense scenes like Medea mourning her son in the confines of a psychiatric hospital, only to be mocked by her doctors.

The play, already groundbreaking for its re-telling of the Greek myth using queer relationships, further complicates the story by adding in the issues of Chicano nationalism. The specificity of these themes, however, does not prevent the audience from sympathizing with the marginalization these characters face.

Through del Valle’s persuasive and gripping portrayal of Medea, the audience relates to her torment over her custody battle to keep her son, who is asserting his desire to become a man. “Betrayal is when a boy grows into a man and sees his mother as ‘woman’ for the first time. Woman. A thing. A creature to be controlled,” Medea exclaims.

At the same time, Medea garners resentment for her mistreatment of her lover, Luna. This neglect sparks Luna’s adulterous behavior, as she kisses Savannah (Erin Adams ’09) after a drunken night out.

So powerful were the performances that the audience members developed an emotional attachment to the characters. The play appropriately elicited gasps, shouts and laughter from the audience that reflected the emotional turmoil of Medea.

Performances will be held April 13 through April 16 and April 20 through April 23 at 8 p.m. on Thursday through Saturday and 2 p.m. on both Sundays. Tickets are $5 for students. A keynote address by the playwright will occur on April 21 at 4 p.m. in Leeds Theatre.