Minotaur – A Sight in the Dark

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Minotaur, Photo Courtesy: The Annex Theater

A REVIEW BY THE BAD ORACLE

I don’t think we’ll ever get tired of the Minotaur story.  We all know, some of us fucking deeply, what it feels like to be lost, hunted by something big in the dark.  Though most of the time, it’s more of, you know, a metaphor.  For Amy (Molly Margulies) the protagonist of Douglas Johnson’s Minotaur, currently playing at Annex, it’s a lot more literal than that.  A LOT more.  A shadowy society has formed in some kind of cave/bunker where a forgotten (lost?) war has left behind bullets that whiz bang through the corridors, looking for something soft.  Poor Amy has been down a long time, long enough to have forgotten what rain is.  Minotaur is, in one way, a fairly straightforward heroes’ journey, familiar in arc, satisfying in conclusion.  The maze has sprung forth pretty much everything humans feel compelled to make from nothing:  laws that serve the strong instead of protecting the weak, useless religions, pigheaded bullies.  Love and sex and, then, (of course) betrayal.  Even when there are only, like, eighteen humans left in the world, most of them manage to disappoint you in the end.  But Amy is a trooper and, if she turns a little bitter, a little selfish, well, who can blame her?  The show has two great points of genius.  The first is in the tone that Johnson adopts, particularly in the character of Adam (Rjyan Kidwell, forever playing havoc with my spell check), a non-specific creature that only Amy seems to see.  Johnson has this way of populating the world with monsters of memory that are somewhere between fantastical beasts and my ex-boyfriend.  The way that Adam speaks to Amy, how he tears at her defenses, exploits her weak points as only a trusted friend can – it hints that all this goes deep for Johnson and, so, it went deep for me too.  Does understanding why we are the way we are make us any different?  Is that kind of remembering a trap or a test?  The second is in the environmental magic that the designers have wrought.  Lights (Trevor Wilhelms) are carried on, lit, and extinguished by the people of this world where it has become an especially precious commodity.  This leaves us, at times, in extended darkness, our ears pricked, our breathing fast, our senses becoming sharper in an instant, primal way.  Set design (Douglas Johnson, Rick Gerriets, Samantha Bloom) works seamlessly with Johnson’s direction to make a fifteen foot playing space seem like an endless labyrinth, a snarled mess.  Samantha Bloom’s fabrication, especially on the demon himself, is jaw dropping.  And the soundscape/music direction (David Crandall, Rjyan Kidwell, Patrick McMinn, Scott Burke) is marvelous, dripping and scratching, playing with your ears and your head, sounding old and echoing and forbidden.  This is world building, folks, and it’s hard to do as effectively as this.   Margulies is disarmingly natural, navigating the turns from childish naivety to brutal heartbreak to aching growth with ease.  The way that she pronounces the word “nobody”, how she gives it a terrible, resigned weight.  She isn’t nobody, she’s everybody and there isn’t anybody who won’t relate to her.  I rarely see an actor who can carry a show so effortlessly, it’s like she’s acting in the spaces you’re seeing out of the corner of your eyes.  Kidwell is also wonderful here, his slightly petulant voice by turns funny, annoying and menacing.  He excels in the subtle moments Johnson gives him, he knows how to show the true nature of the beast (such as when he plays a cruel prank on an old man).  Madeleine Scott makes you want to believe as Sandra, and her scenes with Marguiles are so delightful, so true that it’s a fucking gut punch when it finally comes.  Andrew Holter stops by as a charming cupid with gold and honey tipped arrows (watch it with these types, girls) and Trevor Wilhelms is absurdly touching as John, a small part that quickly becomes an audience favorite.  Pro-tip:  Sit in the front.  I wish I’d sat in the first row, as uncomfortable as those seats looked.  I felt like I was craning my neck and back trying to see what was happening, as much of the action takes place on the floor and I was frustrated by missing it.

THE BOTTOM LINE:   Minotaur will get you where you live.  The show makes you want to be still, and listen, and look for the light.  Technical bravery, fearless performance and flawless storytelling add up to a killer piece of theater.  It’s an epic thing, born of some dark fucking magic.  You must.

SECOND OPINION?

Running until April 10th at Annex Theater

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