This new take on the Minotaur myth surprises with matadors and shadow puppets.
It's probably safe to say that most people are familiar with the story of the Minotaur: the Greek myth in which Aphrodite makes the queen of Crete fall in love with a bull and give birth to a half-man, half-bull creature called the Minotaur, who the king imprisons in a Labyrinth until Theseus, with the help of the princess Ariadne, slays the beast. It's a tale that's been reinterpreted times beyond counting, from every character's point of view. But you haven't heard the story like this before.
The Minotaur and the Matador
Kato McNickle's Minotaurs. Toreros. involves two incredibly popular trends in contemporary playwriting right now, Greek myth adaptations and puppetry, but the play doesn't feel gimmicky or like it's already been done at all. Rather, this exciting, innovative Minotaur adaptation takes the story in a new direction, and while you can still recognize the original myth within the play, you can never tell where the story is going to go next.
Minotaurs. Toreros. follows the character of Miura, a matador enchanted with the act of fighting the bull, and Manolete, a boy who admires her completely despite her inability to recognize that he is her son. The tale is told out of order, in a series of interludes interspersed with shadow puppetry scenes and the growing romance of the Boy and Girl who operate the puppets. But despite the nonlinear storytelling, the relationships between the characters always remain clear and keep you within the magical world of the matador.
A Simple, Clever Performance
The shadow puppet scenes, still performed with the screen and necessary lighting even within a staged reading, are the closest moments to the original Minotaur myth, stripped to its most basic and humorous elements--no one can avoid laughing at Pasiphae hiding within a mechanical bull so that she can copulate with the beast she is enamored with. And despite its status as a staged reading, without a set and with actors holding scripts in hand, this performance used the limitations of the reading to full effect, from the amusing stage directions to moments of flight or magic that might be impossible to stage fully.
The text of this play is not written in strict verse like many of Turn to Flesh Productions' other works, but the speech is still clearly heightened and poetic, drawing the audience into the romantic, fantastical world. With minotaurs going on dates with girls who play field hockey and a boy who takes photos with the famous matador for his school paper, this is a world where all time is present at once, and without the constraints of costume or set, the cast lets you use your imagination to create the Labyrinth, or the bull ring.
The Love of the Bull
Marisol Rosa-Shapiro is utterly enchanting as Miura the matador, a magnetic presence whose charm and confidence in herself is at odds with her bloodlust in the ring. That Miura corresponds to both Pasiphae and Theseus in the original myth, the Minotaur's mother and his destroyer, adds a layer of complexity to the work that makes Minotaurs. Toreros. stand out. David Rosenblatt as Manolete, the Boy and the Minotaur, is charming and relatable despite his confused identity--boy or Minotaur, Miura's son or stranger.
While the relationship between Miura and Manolete forms the heart of the play, Katie Medved as Eleanora (our Ariadne) and Filipe Valle Costa as Manolete's father Romero bring energy and humor to the piece as well. Ultimately, this is a play about love, whether romantic, maternal or the love of bullfighting, and that theme unites the disparate elements of the play into one complete story.
Would this play work in a full production, where Icarus goes flying across the stage and Manolete gets lost in the Labyrinth before finding his father? It's hard to say, but this staged reading from Turn to Flesh brings an intriguing story to life with a new take on matadors and Minotaurs.
Turn to Flesh Productions' monthly reading series continues with The Devil's Own Game by Meron Langsner on October 23.
This article was previously published on CHARGED.fm.