Must-See Performance: “Mojada: A Medea in Los Angeles” at the Getty Villa
Leticia Marie Sanchez
Intense. Riveting. Pulsing with life from beginning to end. During a time when the heartbreaking plight of fleeing refugees has garnered global headlines, the struggles of Medea and her family could not feel more timely. Playwright Luis Alfaro has successfully adapted Euripides’ Greek tragedy with “Mojada: A Medea in Los Angeles.” Now playing at the Getty Villa, the classic work is set among Mexican immigrants in contemporary Boyle Heights. Together with Director Jessica Kubzansky, Alfaro has created a play that is unnerving and powerful. The desperation of his characters is palpable. During the scene when the family emigrates to the United States, violence and atrocities are committed against them. Watching the characters onstage, caged like animals during their journey, we squirm. We want to look away. But we can’t.
Alfaro is particularly skillful at creating lively dialogue, witty barbs that humanize the characters, connecting them with the audience. As the chorus, Vivis Colombetti (Tita) proves a robust force with which to be reckoned- with a gesture as small as a mischievously deceptive Cheshire Cat smile, she seduces the entire audience. She proved that through a sharp, feisty tongue, a humble servant can rebel and claim power, standing up for herself. The entire cast worked well as an ensemble- from the exuberant Anthony Gonzalez as the earnest young child Acan to the introspective, trusting Sabina Varela as Medea.
Alfaro adeptly uses metaphors, weaving them as seamlessly as Medea weaves her garments. For instance, the flapping wings of the Guaco bird appear like bookends, heralding the play’s beginning and end. At the outset, Tita flaps wings which, like a transistor radio, changes channels with each flap, providing auditory slices of life of the neighborhood we are about to enter- the sound of an orgasm, a child’s laughter, breaking down barriers at the play’s beginning so that Angelenos who may have arrived at the museum in the comfort of air-conditioned cars are forced to confront individuals who may be invisible to us otherwise.
The costumes also tell a story: the young Acan wears a Mexican soccer outfit in the first scene and later dons trendy skater threads to illustrate his gradual assimilation. In addition to the costumes, the music enhances the narrative, underscoring the tension with each note.
What was especially noteworthy was the effective connection between the Ancient and the Contemporary. When Armida parades through the classic backdrop of the Getty Villa in her new dress prior to her immolation, it is a haunting link to the past, her proud strut through the ancient- styled architecture connecting Greek Tragedy and the present, the intimate with the grandiose.
Finally, Alfaro’s play achieves the unthinkable. He creates sympathy for Medea, no easy feat especially right after she has committed a heinous crime. Yet, at the play’s end, Medea flaps her wings upwards, a chilling apotheosis that demonstrates the power and victory in her destructive behavior.