Euripides’ Medea was first performed in 431 B.C. and one can assume that since then, no production of the Greek tragedy has featured its heroine taking out her marital aggression on a Sony PlayStation. In Sung Rno’s wAve, the embittered Medea (now a Korean American homemaker named M) is playing a rated-Mature slasher with her teenage son. “Dad sucks at this game,” Junior says. “Yeah,” replies M, hammering the console. “Dad sucks.”
wAve transplants the classic drama of husbandly desertion to a not so inconceivable United States where firearms are rampant, Hollywood rules, and tech innovation has supplanted human creativity. For the play’s Asian American characters, life has become a media echo chamber of yellow-face insults, apotheosized by a cloying TV smash called Chinky & Gooky.
The play’s title refers to the quantum mechanics concept that light exhibits the properties of both a wave and a particle. As a metaphor for the duality of Asian American existence, it feels clumsily didactic. What ultimately saves wAve from drowning is Michi Barall’s ferocious performance. A Stepford wife on the verge of rebellious sentience, her Medea fights valiantly to stay afloat in a world where the most comforting sound is the chime of a Windows XP system signing off.