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'Heavier Than...' Revisits Greek Mythology
The new play at the Theatre@Boston Court, Steve Yockey's Heavier Than…, is a retelling of the old Greek myth of the minotaur in his labyrinth, but this time from the creature's point of view. It's a professionally done show with a strong cast and a distinctive look, but the play lacks ambition. It's enjoyable while it's going on, but not particularly memorable upon leaving the theatre--a solid base hit, but no home-run.
Poor Asterius (Nick Ballard), the minotaur exiled to the maze, has a big day ahead of him. On the one hand, tomorrow will be his thirtieth birthday, and he's convinced himself that his absent mother Pasiphae (Jill Van Velzer) will finally come visit him. On the other hand, tomorrow is the day the king sends a group of men into the labyrinth to try and kill Asterius, as he's done every seven years or so. A chorus (Ashanti Brown, Teya Patt and Katie Locke O'Brien) of Fates try to keep the minotaur's hopes alive, but his only human friend, Icarus (Casey Kringlen), disputes their optimism. Asterius is cheered by a late-night visit from his sister, Ariadne (Laura Howard), but seeing him is only part of the reason for her surprise appearance…
Ballard makes for a soulful and empathetic minotaur, and brings the character a sense of dignity as well. Asterius is written essentially as a gentle giant, but Ballard also conveys his ability for violence, especially in a scene where he threatens to destroy a tower. Van Velzer, who gets to play alternate versions of Pasiphae, is effective at portraying both maternal tenderness and selfish cruelty, and her work creates the emotional stakes of the piece. Howard is appropriately self-satisfied as Ariadne, only mildly conflicted about betraying her brother, and Kringlen is sly and funny as the gay Icarus who keeps hitting on the big buff minotaur. Finally, Brown, Patt and O’Brien work euphoniously well together as the chorus of Fates, speaking together and separately from moment to moment, their movements and dialogue choreographed like a witty, complex dance.
Director Abigail Deser brings a sense of theatricality to the show, from the blackout moments leading to Icarus’ landings to the intricate interactions of the chorus, and she gets smart work from her cast. Yockey succeeds at reworking the minotaur myth, creating sympathy for Asterius’ plight, but chooses not to go any deeper emotionally or further abroad intellectually. He doesn’t expand the play’s scope, when it clearly seems there is more that could be done with this source material. Kurt Boetcher’s labyrinth set, composed of metal frames filled with fake stones, creates a dry and existential ambience, while Robert Prior’s costumes provide a needed splash of color and style. Prior’s shadow-puppet video of young Asterius going berserk is a hilarious highlight.
“Heavier Than…” runs through Aug. 21. Tickets are $27-32 and are available online or at (626) 683-6883.