January 03, 2003 at 05:00 AM EST
We gave it a B+

This impressive, highly touted version of Euripides’ 2,400-year-old Greek tragedy (in which a mother kills her children in order to avenge her husband’s philandering) is boldly contemporary, to be sure. There are no togas here. On a corporate-sleek stage of bleached brick and frosted glass, a model-sexy Jason (of Argonauts fame) makes his first appearance in a T-shirt and jeans. And as Medea, the hard-working, disturbingly funny Fiona Shaw punctuates her ravings with high kicks and karate chops — when she isn’t eating coffee cake from a Tupperware container. But there’s the slightest hint of misplaced agenda in director Deborah Warner’s attempt to bring the murderess down to earth. Ultimately, Shaw’s mad housewife may be too much of an anger comic and psych-casebook study to also become what Euripides intended her to be: the staggering embodiment of pure fury. Nevertheless, Shaw gives a daring, complex, mesmerizingly exact performance. And the homicides — complete with projectile bloodletting and ear-piercing electronic sizzles — shock the system still.

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