The Luminous Group's 21st-century adaptation of the classical Greek myth of Theseus and the Minotaur makes for a strange and exotic evening of entertainment.
The story takes place in ancient Crete. Poseidon, god of the sea, sends King Minos (Marquis Swift) a stunning white sacrificial bull. When King Minos keeps the bull rather than sacrificing it, Poseidon gets angry. The spurned god decides to make Minos's Queen Pasiphae (Kristina O'Neal) fall in love and copulate with the bull. The result of the union is the Minotaur (Brandon Breault), a hideous beast born with the body of a man and the head of a bull. The king, unable to do away with his wife's unlikely progeny, encloses the beast in an intricate labyrinth, where every year seven Athenian youths and maidens are sacrificed to fulfill the Minotaur's savage hunger. This goes on for many a year until a brave Athenian youth, Theseus (Josh Stein-Sapir), seduces Ariadne (Brandy Wykes), the royal daughter; extracts from her the secret of the labyrinth; and destroys the unsavory beast.
Colin Pink's adaptation of the myth is both artful and confusing. He takes the traditional and prototypical expectations of character and plot and turns them on their head. His Minotaur, rather than being a hideous beast, becomes an introverted and erudite intellectual given to poetic rages of melancholy. Theseus becomes an arrogant frat boy, and Ariadne morphs into a whiny and empty-headed brat. But it seems as if the play can't make up its mind as to what play it wants to be. At times the text is dense and poetic with profound philosophical musings and meanderings. At other times, randomly inserted scenes with no bearing whatsoever to the plot seem to be created for affectation and show. Although the play is set in the golden age of classical Crete, the script falls victim to many anachronistic sayings, such as "God is in the details." The several segues into hip-hop, rap, and contemporary drag, although mildly amusing, do not add to the coherence of the piece and more often than not disrupt the flow of story.
Director O'Neal did a fabulous job with the text and the actors. There was a constant flow of rhythm and energy, dance, swordplay, and striking tableaux. The acting at times was fierce -- and sometimes bloodcurdling. Brandon Breault gave an excruciatingly honest and impressive performance as the Minotaur. He was able to expertly handle the dense text and added a primal fury to the role that few could muster. Other performers worthy of note were Josh Stein Sapir (Theseus), whose physical virtuosity and deft handling of the sword made him a pleasure to behold on stage. Marquis Swift (King Minos)'s elocution was excellent, and Eunhye Grace Sakong (Sirius)'s presence lent a grace to this otherwise frenetic production.
Light and sound were well executed by assistant director Sherriann Felix, whose work measurably enhanced the production. Costumes, unfortunately, were another story. They all looked as if they were purchased down the block on St. Mark's Place on Halloween night. Some were so cumbersome and over-the-top that they were laughable. As for the set, the director made the wise choice of having none -- preferring the bare stage to be transformed by the writer's and the actors' imagination.
All in all, the Luminous Group's Minotaur made for a startling evening. Although it wasn't the most intoxicating theatrical experience, there was some engaging conceptualization and work. It will be interesting to see what the Luminous Group comes up with next.
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Copyright 2004 Dawn Zahra