MedeaMorphosis: greek tragedy to go, Free Associates, at the Ivanhoe Theater. It was only a matter of time before the Free Associates strapped on their cothurni for a stab at the Attic tragedies that have had such high profiles in recent seasons. Using audience suggestions (rather sparse at the performance I attended), this improv ensemble crafted a narrative involving a heroine named Hermaphrodite whose obsessive pride in her baking forces her to take extravagant action, including slaughtering innocent kinsmen, and condemns her to a, uh, distasteful fate.

What distinguishes the Free Associates' improvisation is their adherence to a chosen form--in this case, theatrical conventions circa 400 BC. Their fable's premises are absurd--a pancake-house franchise war, a Dionysus sporting a Colonel Sanders accent, a chorus dressed in stolas resembling dinner napkins, and a footbath-size version of the swimming pool scene in Lookingglass Theatre's Metamorphoses. But the show also delivers solemn lyrical strophes, lurid red-lit parricides (albeit with a rolling pin), and an immediacy that's downright moving, chiefly through the efforts of veteran Free Associate Susan Gaspar and newcomer Soumyaa Kapil.

MedeaMorphosis reaffirms the Free Associates' status as the smartest comedy troupe in town. Opaa!

--Mary Shen Barnidge


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