Review: ‘Medusa Undone’ The Untold Story of the World’s Most Famous Monster

Tulsa Community College’s Theatre Department opened its fall season with the performance of “Medusa Undone” by Bella Poynton and directed by Mark Frank. This is the first of two productions planned for the fall semester. The performances were held Oct. 5-8 at the PACE Studio Theatre on the Southeast Campus.

“We try to do a Greek production every three years. … And this is our period piece,” said Mark Frank, director of the play and associate professor and coordinator for the Theatre Department.

Medusa. You probably know her from the Percy Jackson books (or Greek mythology) as a horrible monster with snakes on her head, who can turn anyone who looks at her into stone. But did you ever think what made her to be like that? I assume every villain has a backstory of how everything happened and why they became villains in someone’s story. Well, this play is exactly about that – it is a prequel to how Medusa came to be a terrifying monster in Greek mythology. The main characters in the show are Medusa, Poseidon, and Athena. Poseidon is a well-known god of the sea and Athena, his niece, a goddess of warfare, wisdom, and craft.

Entering the Studio Theatre, the first thing you see is a set, the decoration of the stage. What caught my attention was a pool in the middle of the stage. Seeing the pool, it made me wonder how they would use it if they would use it at all. Just the pool itself captured my attention and got me excited about the play. Several columns towering beside the pool, really conveyed the Greek theme. Attention to detail was taken into consideration in creating the set.  The era of the show dates to when the world was new, and gods and goddesses roamed the Earth side by side with mortals. The opening scene is set at the Temple of the goddess Athena Nike.

Medusa is played by Isabella Smith in “Medusa Undone.” The drama based on Greek mythology is the opening production for the fall semester from Tulsa Community College’s Theatre Department. The play is directed by Mark Frank. (Photo by Resolusean Photography)

Medusa promises her loyalty to Athena.

Seeking a dwelling in Athena’s temple, young and ambitious Medusa begs the goddess of wisdom to stay, and Medusa pledges to worship her for the rest of her life. Seeing the determination and eagerness in her eyes, Athena allows her to stay and later appoints her as a head priestess in place of Xenoclea. The sea god Poseidon comes to visit his niece, Athena, and notices an alluring young priestess at the goddess’ service. Mighty god of the sea catches feelings for Medusa and quickly develops a friendship with her. Seeing the kindness in the god’s actions, the young priestess is open to his friendship.

It is when the goddess of wisdom notices their relationship and swiftly frees Medusa from the position as her head priestess. Poseidon proposes to Medusa to leave the temple with him, promising her a happy life. Medusa, who is not interested in anything other than to worship the gods, refuses Poseidon and urges him to leave her. Not being accustomed to rejection, the sea god violently abuses the young woman and leaves, stirring Athena’s jealousy toward Medusa even further.

Medusa is punished.

After what Poseidon did to Medusa, she is deeply affected by it and ponders if she even wants to live after that. Xena, who became a friend to Medusa after tutoring her for years, assures Medusa to live giving her hope. Meanwhile, cruel and jealous goddess of warfare Athena thinks of how to punish her servant further for being attracted by the god of the sea. The goddess speaks to Medusa and proposes to her a deal to help her and seeks a guarantee from Medusa that what happened before will never happen again.

Eager for any change, Medusa agrees. Unfortunately, Athena, with a resentment still against Medusa, curses her turning the young and beautiful woman into a monster with snakes on her head and a gaze that will turn anyone into stone. Two years later, hopeless Medusa dwells in the dark caves on the coastline of the Island of the Dead with Xena, who stayed with her.

Poseidon finally comes to ask forgiveness and begs the monstrous creature that once was a graceful woman to go with him at last. Medusa reminded of everything that he did to her threatens to turn him into stone if he ever comes back again. The mighty sea god runs out of the cave for his life. Then, Medusa forces her friend, Xena, to leave her and find a place elsewhere and be happy. Xena refuses and stays, saying that she is gone. Believing Xena was gone, Medusa takes off her blindfold and accidentally turns her dearest friend into stone. After losing her friend, Medusa lets the anger devour her entirely and she becomes cruel and deadly to everyone in her way.

Medusa’s message

Medusa’s little-known story has a profound effect. Cruelty and brutality against women, as well as their consequences, have a huge impact on us, even in a Greek mythological story. The well-thought-out play is not only a brilliantly written piece, but it is also a tool for raising awareness about sexual violence today.

Frank stated that “Medusa Undone” is very challenging for the actors. It is a good challenging script for the Theater Department since it makes the actors challenged by the drama.

Now, let’s talk about my favorite part, the costumes! The costumes were colorful, exquisite, and really reflected the characters. Not only the costumes but the makeup and accessories left me totally speechless. Athena in her golden gown, makeup, golden dust all over her face and arms, and a cuff on her upper arm effectively reflected the true character of the goddess. Valentine Tarpley, the actor who played Athena, said that she brought cockiness and real arrogance to her character. And I totally agree with her. Her brilliant acting really showed Athena’s contemptuousness toward others and unrestrained power of the goddess.

Poseidon, who first appeared as a peasant then a god of earthquakes, had different costumes throughout the play. The actor, Brayden Marchant, had a bluish contoured face, that gave the effect of the sea. With amazing costumes and professional acting, Marchant brought Poseidon, also known as the god of the sea to life. He was amusing and lively at first, which made the audience adore him, but when he revealed his true character, selfish and cruel, we felt horrible for loving him or even laughing at his jokes. Marchant’s advice to anyone willing to be an actor is to work hard, read the script before you audition, know your lines, and most importantly just have fun and keep doing what you are doing.

And of course, the star of the show was Medusa. Everything about her was just amazing, which left me in awe. Her dress, which really depicted the sea and Greek motif, was of a light purplish color. A huge, beaded necklace was a detail to it. The wig was used to portray the long, magnificent hair of Medusa. And the headset in the end was phenomenal. The snakes and white eye lenses helped to make the shift in her character. The actress, Isabella Smith, expertly portrayed Medusa, who was loved from the fist scene to the last one. She not only mastered portraying Medusa’s funny, caring, and honest side, but she also nailed the extremely emotionally wrenching parts.

Overall, I loved the production! TCC’s Theatre Department did an awesome job once again on “Medusa Undone.” I am incredibly amazed with the actors, costumes, and set. The concept of the play had a tremendous impression on me, and I believe many in the theatre would agree.

The next productions of the Theatre Department, I would encourage everyone to attend. The next play is “The Play That Goes Wrong” on Nov. 16, 17, and 18 at 8 p.m. and Nov. 19 at 2 p.m.

For more information, call the ticket office at (918) 595-7777.

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