War as entertainment

The Minotaur

By Colin Pink
Directed by Kristina O'Neal
The Luminous Group
Pantheon (small theatre)
Non-union production (closed)
Review by John Chatterton

Colin Pink's The Minotaur combines the story of Theseus's triumph over the half-bull, half-man, mythical creature with a portrait of a dysfunctional royal family -- King Minos (Kevin Brown), his wife Pasiphae (Kristina O'Neal as mother of the Minotaur), and their spoiled daughter, Ariadne (Kristen Caesar). Pasiphae, for reasons too complicated to get into, had an affair with a bull and gave birth to the Minotaur. Theseus (Josh Stein-Sapir) is an Athenian, one of several that Athens must regularly give as tribute to Minos, who feeds them to the Minotaur (Michael Lester). Theseus is half-god, however, and slays the Minotaur.

While the plot is from Greek mythology, the characters are as contemporary as you can get: Ariadne's interest in Theseus (other than sex) centers on the latest fashions and dance steps from Athens, for instance; Pasiphae is a rich bitch who screws every stud puppet she can find, including the older but still virile Cronos, the king's general (Antonio Mastrantonio); and Minos, when he's not partying with a bunch of drunken sycophants, is planning a war to distract the population from economic issues at home. Hmm, now that's familiar....

Pink captures to a T the internecine family dynamics of fed-up dad, indulgent mom, and spoiled brat. His most sympathetic portrait is of the Minotaur, however, an intelligent and misunderstood monster who'd rather not have to scare the Athenian youth who are regularly sacrificed to him (he lets them wander until they starve to death, rather than eat them). The Minotaur has regular conversations with Sirus (Amy Blitz), who draws him out during visits to the maze. When Theseus comes to kill the Minotaur, the half-beast penetrates Theseus's narcissistic self-worship even as Theseus prepares to put him to the sword. (The slo-mo fights were effectively directed by Edward J. Wheeler.)

Events turn ugly when Pasiphae gets Cronos to try to assassinate Minos. Minos kills his love-struck, envious general, and to protect herself Pasiphae denounces her lover as a traitor. (A pity O'Neal got caught up in her costume at the crucial moment, when she was trying to divest herself of her coat, and uttered the immortal line, "This fucking dress!")

While most of the cast tended toward broad strokes in their characterizations, Brown, as Minos, and Lester, as the Minotaur, offered more subtlety in their work, the former edging into the territory of Tony Soprano, the latter generating genuine pathos. O'Neal managed the group scenes well. Khoa Nguyen was very funny as the gay choreographer teaching the latest dance steps to the partygoers. The hip-hop-flavored dancing infused the party scenes with vitality. The least effective scene was a confrontation between mother and daughter that seemed to have no dramatic shape beyond the hurling of repeated imprecations. (It also wasn't clear why Mastrantonio played Cronos as a Brooklyn hoodlum.)

The costumes were colorful and sexy, though Minos's white double-breasted suit was a bit baggy. Except for the Minotaur's outfit (Jean Engstrom), which perhaps didn't need to be so literal with its emphasis on hair and horns, they were uncredited. (Why did the general have corporal's stripes?) Lights and set (Miranda Hardy) were simple but effective, consisting of area lighting; flashlights under faces for chorus numbers in the opening; very dim light for the Labyrinth scenes, which were played downstage; and swaths of cloth and occasional festive lights to suggest a party atmosphere. The tiny stage could support no more scenic elements, nor did it need to.

Pink is an excellent writer from the UK who commutes across the Pond to his "resident" company. Let's hope he keeps up the trips!

(Also featuring Routh Chadwick, Erik McKay, Shari Lee Mitzner, Marquis Swift, Brandy Wykes.)

Box Score:

Writing: 2
Directing: 1
Acting: 1
Sets: 1
Costumes: 2
Lighting/Sound: 1

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Copyright 2003 John Chatterton