“There is a certain necessary insanity to being a mother.”
That’s not a sentiment often granted to Medea, the powerful sorceress who the Greeks mythologized into a jilted wife and murderer of her own children who rarely elicits empathy. Usually she is condemned outright, dubbed crazy and dismissed as beyond the pale.
But Alison Gregory’s inventive, uncompromising play “Not Medea,” now receiving a vigorous production in Jersey City at Art House Productions, dares to consider the classical villain as a woman operating with a certain logic, as somebody who finds herself driven to the brink and there makes clear decisions. The Greek tragedian Euripides made Medea’s story famous, and he spends some time in this terrain, but nobody remembers those lines. We only remember Medea as a crazed murderer. Gregory digs deeper, not to justify Medea’s crimes, but rather to use Medea’s story as a means of meditating on the fraught conditions and at-times oppressive expectations of motherhood and womanhood. In “Not Medea,” motherhood is a volatile solution: equal parts love, vulnerability and power.