Anna Ziegler’s The Minotaur basks in quirkiness, its sense of the whimsical. Director and Scenic Designer Jeffrey Schmidt has laid out an oversized sandbox and sluices for the river that leads to the Minotaur’s cave. The chorus consists of a lady Rabbi, a Priest and a Lawyer. Much of the story is told with “props” strewn like jetsam on a beach. When the three are not wearing imposing bronze masks to command our attention, they sit around a patio table, drinking wine, playing board games, reading. Anyone who wishes to stage Greek or Roman mythology, and make the content accessible and familiar, has their work cut out for them. Ancient zeitgeist and other cultural assumptions normally unavailable are revealed in Ziegler’s script, along with most of the subtext. The dialogue uses gobs of pop contemporary references (the internet, texting, Craig’s List) presumably to make the speech less rhetorical and story more salient. It’s by turns amusing, poetic, frank, expository, wrenching.
Pasiphae falls in love with a beautiful white bull (and with the help of Daedalus) disguises herself as a cow. She’s impregnated by the sublime beast and subsequently gives birth to the Minotaur, a monster half-bull and half-man. He lives in a pitch black labyrinth, devouring men and impossible to kill. After that Pasiphae gives birth to Ariadne, the Minotaur’s sister. When Theseus arrives to vanquish the monster, Ariadne falls in love with him. She’s torn between her need to help Theseus (who could die) and spare her brother. Theseus is the archetypal hero, Ariadne the incomparable beauty and Minotaur, a metaphor for fierce desire, though no less sympathetic for that.
The Minotaur is a pleasurable, entertaining, surprisingly effective balance of explication, intent and yearning. Ziegler isn’t timid about exposing the scaffolding, or questioning the wisdom of a conqueror who lives for nothing else, however altruistic he may be. She dissects, undercuts, and sometimes debunks what we’d assume to be the overarching values of the original allegory. She does, however, recreate the story with wit, sincerity and panache. The Minotaur is not overly impressed with its own cleverness or reverential to its detriment. It stays true to the spirit of the piece, ruminating on the nature of love, attachment, longing and the value of humanity.
Theatre 3 presents The Minotaur, playing August 3rd-27th, 2014. 2800 Routh Street, Suite 168, Dallas, Txas