BY THE BOG OF CATS, Irish Repertory of Chicago, at Victory Gardens Theater. The idea behind Irish playwright Marina Carr’s most recent work–an update of Euripides’ tragedy Medea to modern-day rural Ireland–sounds brilliant. Nearly 2,500 years after it was performed in Athens, the original is still riveting: a middle-aged woman turns murderous when her husband deserts her to take a younger, richer wife.

But Carr’s play, at least as it’s interpreted by director Kay Martinovich and the Irish Repertory folks, never quite lives up to its promise. The early scenes, setting up the play’s conflicts and issues, are the strongest. Especially brilliant is Carr’s recasting of Medea as a “tinker,” one of a band of much maligned nomads who to this day wander the roads of Ireland, as vilified and feared by their contemporaries as non-Greek barbarians were in Euripides’ time.

The play seems to lose power, however, as it progresses to its horrifying conclusion. One problem is Euripides’ ending and the violence that precedes it seem predictable rather than inevitable. Another is that Carr’s play, and Martinovich’s workmanlike production, slows down for some navel gazing and situation pondering just when the story should be hurtling toward its climax.

–Jack Helbig