medea and its double

First Floor Theatre

January 7 - 24, 2010
Thursday - Saturday at 8:00pm
Sunday at 2:30pm

Tickets $18
purchase tickets online

Seoul Factory for the Performing Arts

The piece is based on the play by Euripides and has been adapted and directed by Hyoung-Taek Limb.  It will be performed in Korean with English subtitles (which are hardly necessary, because the narrative is easily understood by all audiences.) There are six actors and two singers, all Korean. 

Seoul Factory for the Performing Arts calls itself an institution "where the spirits of lovers, lunatics and poets encounter."  It primarily adapts classical western theater  for Korean and foreign audiences. This production creates a new style by combining not only Korean voices and martial arts, but also techniques of the Beijing Opera and Indian Odissi tradition with classic theater.  The performance utilizes daily sounds and voice work derived from the Korean traditional Korean one-person opera ‘pansori’ and traditional folk song.

SFPA was founded as ‘Seoul Acting Lab’ in March of 2000 to train actors. Artistic Director Hyoung-Taek Limb trains performers based on the essence of performing arts, so called “physical contact” derived from Anne Bogart’s Viewpoints, Grotowski, Yoga, and Korean Traditional Mask Dance. He re-interprets classical works of art and develops training methods that are best suited for Korean emotions and sentiments.  SFPA also offers workshops that focus on cultural exchange between Eastern and Western performing arts.

"Medea and its Double" debuted in Sinaia, Romania in July, 2006 and has been performed at Cairo International Festival for Experimental Theater (2007, winner: Best Directing award), Chennai, India (2009),
Santiago, Chile (2009) and three times in Korea, at Miryang Summer Performing Arts Festival (2007), ArKo Arts Theater (2008) and Seoul Performing Arts Festival (2009). 

Dmitru Corneilu (Romania), Chairman of UNESCO (2007), wrote that the show was an "amazing orchestration of traditional and contemporary voices of actors."  Daily News (Egypt) wrote, "Director Hyoung-Taek Limb brilliantly succeeds in making Korean culture the perfect home for Greek tragedy. The sheer power of an inventive theater director’s singular vision can transcend any barrier chained to the world's oldest form of entertainment." 

Hyoung-Taek Limb was born in Seoul, Korea and began his training while in college, focusing on how to combine Western and Asian theater disciplines. With the goal of further exploration, he moved to New York and continued his work under the guidance of Andrei Serban and Anne Bogart at Columbia University, where he earned an MFA in Directing. He also assisted Andrei Serban for his La MaMa production of "Love, the Greatest Enchantment" and "La Dispute." 

Limb worked as a movement instructor at Schauspielhaus in Bochum, Germany and then founded a NYC theatre company, LITE (Laboratory for international Theatre Exchange, Inc.), with actors and directors mostly from Columbia University in 1994. Moving back to Seoul in 2000, Limb directed "A Midsummer Night's Dream," which received national recognition in Korea for its unique combination of traditional and modern, as well as Eastern and Western aesthetics. Limb is also a professor at Seoul Institute of the Arts.  His other notable productions include "Slowness" by Milan Kundera (2003), "Three Sisters-Lost In Time" (NYC, Connnelly Theater, 2004) and "The Cherry Orchard-Comedy Nostalgia" (2007) and "New Birds" (2009).  For 2010, he is preparing a new adaptation of "The Idiot" by Dostoevsky.

The two Medeas are played by Kyoung Lee and See-yeon Koo.  The cast also includes Do-yup Lee (as Jason), Kyu-hwa Choi (as Aigeus/Tutor/Clown), Da-il Lee (as Creon/Clown), Su-yeon Lee (as Nanny/Clown) and two singers, Min-jung Kim and Yeon-ju Cho.

This week in new york review
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Seoul Factory for the Performing Arts, under artistic director and founder Limb Hyoung-taek, has brought its own unique twist to Euripides’ classic Greek tragedy of a woman scorned in MEDEA AND ITS DOUBLE, playing Thursdays through Sundays through January 24 at La MaMa. Mixing in Shakespearean bravura, contemporary dance, and even some emotive Korean soap opera, Limb divides Medea into two characters: mother (Koo See-yeon) and lover (Lee Kyoung). The work begins with a way-too-long textual introduction projected onto a bloodred scrim, summarizing the tale of Medea, the heartbreaking story of the tragic marriage between Medea and Jason, of Argonauts and Golden Fleece fame. After learning of her husband’s betrayal with a wealthy princess, Medea takes out her vengeance on her two children and Jason, leaving behind a bloody mess. The introduction does set up the drama, which is performed in Korean without subtitles, but it also tries to prime the audience as to how they should react to what they’re about to see.

The two Medeas first appear as children, playing with Jason (Lee Do-yup) and other friends; marriage and children ensue, beautifully communicated in evocative dance. Rectangular pools with floating candles flank the stage, offering beauty and life, but once Jason returns from his dalliance, Medea divides: The lover, wearing a devilish red coat, tries to suppress Medea the mother, robed in pure flowing white, and exact her brutal revenge. Limb’s inventive production includes singers and musicians behind the scrim, adding a foreboding mood to the proceedings even though, once again, everything is in Korean. And just wait till you see how he handles the two babies. The lead actors are all excellent, particularly Koo as Medea the lover, who evolves from sexy to dangerous to psychotic while moving skillfully around the stage, incorporating Asian martial arts and Beijing Opera elements into her portrayal. This strong, emotional production deserves a bigger venue, where it can really show off its bold and inventive attributes.

torn between two minds
by Michael Bettencourt
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In Medea and Its Double, director Hyoung-Taek Limb uses the version of Medea by the Greek playwright Euripides to explore the passion that drove Medea to kill King Creon, his daughter Glauce, and her own two children as an act of revenge against the infidelity of her husband, Jason.

Mr. Limb does this by "splitting" the title character into two Medeas onstage, one dubbed "Medea as mother" and the other as "Medea as lover" (played by See-Yeon Koo and Kyoung Lee, respectively). Their struggle, both literal and metaphoric, over whether life should be preserved or blood spilt in anger comprises the moral and emotional center of the play.

The decade-old Seoul Factory for the Performing Arts (SFPA), which performs Medea and Its Double, was founded by Mr. Limb, who also acts as its artistic director. SFPA grounds its actor training in what Mr. Limb calls techniques of "physical contact," based on Anne Bogart's Viewpoints and the work of Polish director Jerzy Grotowski. He also employs Korean mask dances, martial arts, and the vocal training of the traditional one-person opera called "pansori" as well as practices drawn from the Beijing Opera and the Indian Odissi tradition of classic theater.

The result of this training and theatrical approach is always striking and at times stunning. The staging for Medea and Its Double is simple yet evocative. Two off-set scrim panels, painted in swoops of red and black (like splashed blood) sit upstage and allow for entrances and exits. The company, at times seated behind the scrim panels, are lit as they chant and provide acoustic sound effects, and two singers/instrumentalists (Min-Jung Kim and Yeon-Ju Cho) remain there for the duration of the play, providing vocal and musical underscoring and commentary.

The playing area is entirely white except for two wings of red running from upstage center to stage right and left, where they border two shallow 2' x 8' troughs of water with lit floating candles. The supple lighting (by Tae-Jin Chung) supplies the visual complement to the physical stage action, at times highlighting, at times hiding, at times nuancing the characters' emotions.

Mr. Limb begins the story with the childhood of Jason (Do-Yup Lee) and Medea as they join their friends in playing childhood games (all enacted with great exuberance by Su-Yeon Lee, Kyu-Hwa Choi, and Da-Il Lee). Gradually, as they grow older, they grow closer, their budding intimacy expressed in a sensual dance done with a red ribbon that binds them together with a kind of savage closeness.

The birth of their two children (represented throughout the play by two dolls manipulated by two actors) comes with a blast of white light and a scream of pain, and for a while, both Medea and Jason are happy with their family life.

But Jason betrays this life by agreeing to marry Glauce, the daughter of King Creon (of Corinth, not of Thebes, as in Antigone), ostensibly so that he can protect Medea and the children (Medea, after all, is not Greek but a barbarian, an outsider, and thus in need of defense), but in reality because he is seduced by the offer of gold and power. Jason expresses this corruption in the simplest of ways: when he enters Medea's presence, dressed in rich robes, he carries an elegant parasol which he sets down carefully and then kisses -- the kiss he never gives to Medea.

It is at this point that Medea fractures, and the Mother struggles to stem the growing rage of the murder-minded Lover. This struggle is played out in many ways on the stage, all physically grounded, all visually sharp and moving. But the Mother finally loses the battle, and the staging of the children's murder is the first of the two most poignant moments in the play. Represented by two red-paper cut-outs, the Lover deliberately tears them to shreds and showers the pieces across the playing area.

At this point, the battle lost, the Mother and the Lover come to terms with each other in order to soothe the pain of the loss and forge a way forward, shown by the second poignant moment, the children's funeral: Medea carries a white casket shaped like a bassinet from upstage to downstage as she literally uses her body to slice in half a panel of white cloth, breaking apart the old order so that it can be mended.

The play ends with the return of the childhood song sung at the beginning of the play, and the extinguishing of the candles floating on the water.

All in all, Medea and Its Double delivers an excellent evening of theater, full of carefully meshed pageantry and pathos, performed by actors secure in their skills and directed by a man with a clear sense of how to use the stage to tell a compelling and tragic story.

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