To understand what makes Mojada: A Medea in Los Angeles such a marvel to see on stage, one must be prepared for what will unfold. A tale of tragedy retold as a story of immigration and the hope for a better life, the play is both shocking and devastating, as well as politically divisive.
While the story revolves around a family of illegal immigrants and is set in Los Angeles, the story is a Greek Tragedy in nearly every sense of the word. History buffs who are even remotely familiar with the origins or the play will know why, as the production mixes Hispanic folklore with the work of the tragedian Euripides. The title itself is a giveaway to the ending, as the story of Medea is infamous for its brutal ending. The characters are even named after the Greek figures themselves.
Luis Alfaro, author of the book, leaves nothing to the imagination, as the modern adaptation is completely transparent with what you’re getting into. To go in blind is to walk into one of the most heart-wrenching stories ever told, only the themes and characters have been updated to be easily digestible and relatable for today’s audience.
Alfaro was able to seamlessly weave the myth into the world we know today while also giving us a taste of the trials and tribulations of a group of people many of us have been blind to. His use of symbolism and references to the original tale are well-crafted, and while it is a little on the nose, we believe it’s purposeful and stylistically done.
The golden fleece of the story is the classic American Dream we’ve been fed for years, something that is shown to be just as unobtainable. Latinx parents and undocumented immigrants Medea and Jason bring their family to Los Angeles for a better life, and what ensues is mysticism, betrayal, devastation, and ultimately, death. The modern take and change of setting is both refreshing and the characters are well-written. Medea is a loyal wife to her husband who just wants the best for her family, all the while her husband, Jason, is ensnared by another woman who represents the promise of a better life. The characters are surprisingly sympathetic despite the acts of betrayal committed, as they’re written with a layer of humanity you don’t see in many stories. They are seen as good people from the start, but they are flawed, and it’s this, plus the hardships piled on from both the start and later on in the production, that creates for a truly unique experience.
The American Dream is not exactly seen as a lie, but more a fantasy that asks the family to achieve the impossible to attain it, much like the golden fleece. Some believe the play acts as a cautionary tale about how some things are too good to be true, while others think it’s trying to make a statement of some sort. I, on the other hand, disagree with both.
Illegal immigration has always been a hot button issue within the U.S., so it should come as no surprise that the production has gotten a bit of flack here and there from people on both sides of the political spectrum. The story, however, is both unafraid and unashamed in how it’s told. It caters to neither side of the debate, and I will argue that its main purpose is to tell a story that is all too common; to bring to America a story we all know through the lens of a people that is left in the crosshairs of many political arguments. The Medea and Jason of Greek legend were never real, but the family featured have a story that is all too common.
No amount of words on a screen can truly describe the experience of seeing Mojada in person. It’s a fascinating retelling that leaves you with mixed emotions, but not from any fault of the production’s quality. The writing takes you on a rollercoaster and will just about rip your heart out by the end, but I believe it’s certainly worth a viewing. If the play comes to your area, I definitely recommend taking a look. Though, only if you have the stomach for it.