Though some performances fell flat, Mojada is a must-watch
Chasing a better life, Medea and Hason have crossed the Mexican-American border and settled in Los Angeles. Hason has adapted to the new culture and his dreams are moving forward, but Medea can’t bring herself to leave their property. In a retelling of the classic tragedy Euripides, Mojada explores the violence of assimilation and exile.
If you’re not familiar with the original Medea, it is a tragedy that follows the characters Jason and Medea after their happy ending in Jason and the Argonauts. Medea, a powerful witch and an outsider to Greek culture, watches as her lover Jason pursues another woman in order to marry into royalty. Medea is left behind despite all she’s sacrificed to give Jason everything he wants. Mojada transplants Medea into the undocumented Mexican immigrant experience. Despite wanting to stay loyal to Hason, her first and only love, she’s unable to move on from what she had to do to come to America and struggles to fit into American culture.
The standout actors of this production are Judy Caranto as Tita and Ximena Garduño Rodríguez as Medea. Caranto manages to balance the humour Tita brings to the plot as an older woman who says what she wants when she wants, while narrating some of the most harrowing moments. Meanwhile, Rodríguez brings a weight to Medea, encapsulating her struggle to work as an undocumented immigrant and support her husband and son, as well as her fear of getting caught.
Rowan Watts as Hason, however, doesn’t live up to the script. It feels like Hason doesn’t evolve as a character throughout the play. Where there should be a slow change of character, the same delivery is given, resulting in what feels like a flat performance, especially in comparison to Caranto and Rodríguez.
The set, lighting, and sound design are well done in this production. The design of Medea’s new home reinforces the idea that she is trapped. A recurring detail throughout the play is the hovering spotlight from a helicopter that scans the stage; it’s one more thing that prevents Medea from ever relaxing on her property. The sound design punctuates the production with details like the sounds of the street, a little skitter of a lizard, the hiss of a snake, and the swing of a machete. That last detail is done to horrific effect and the tension among the audience was palpable both before and after.
Mojada is a must watch for anyone who enjoys a carefully crafted tragedy. It is a wonderfully done production that adds to the script, minus some flat performances. It doesn’t just use the original Medea, but adds onto it into its own distinct story, balancing the two .
Mojada is playing at the Phoenix Theatre until March 25.