How do ratings and entertainment value influence the news? It’s a juicy topic that playwright and director Scott Miller engages in his Medea At Six, a retelling of the Greek Medea tale through the eyes of a local TV news crew.
In this telling, hot-shot TV reporter Janet is tracking down a story about a woman, Medea Colchis, who broke into a bank meeting and threatened the CEO with a knife. Now she and her cameraman are outside the woman’s house, where the familiar Medea tale is trotted out once again, complete with Jason, this time in modern dress.
The conflict, such as it is, is built around whether Janet will intercede to stop the awful events in progress, or keep filming to boost ratings and goose her career, sending her to a bigger market and a fatter salary.
And at another time, this play might have more resonance. But let’s face it, we’re living right now amidst the carnage that has resulted from a similar media disaster: television networks that sold their souls for ratings during the past Presidential campaign, handing their networks over totally to the appearances of a pouty, foul-mouthed man-child who—thanks to often slack-jawed and adoring coverage on CNN, Fox News and elsewhere—has become the leader of the “Free (for now) World.”
As they say, timing is everything. And while the Medea yarn is certainly ghastly, it’s questionable if it stacks up in horror to the United States losing its democracy thanks to the craven hidden agenda of much of the media.
That said, the cast under Miller’s direction emotes with all the angst and passion you might expect in any rendering of this bloody myth. As Medea, Nina Domingue paints a well-nuanced portrait of a woman scorned and damaged beyond all imagination. As Janet, Alison Garrigan is all business as she struggles to resolve her inner conflict, and Ananias Jason Dixon moans effectively when he learns about what his former lover Medea has done after being rejected by him.
At its present length of one hour, the play doesn’t develop sufficiently to allow the media aspect to land solidly. And by taking itself so seriously, the whole news industry angle seems to dissipate. Perhaps a more absurd take on the whole proceedings, with a TV weatherman doing segues from the carnage and a TV sports guy comparing the disaster to the latest Patriots’ victory would make the point with more punch and less pathos.
Medea At Six
Through May 21, produced in collaboration with Ensemble Theatre and Playground Theater, 2843 Washington Blvd., Cleveland Heights, 216-321-2930, ensembletheatrecle.org