From the moment you walk into Know Theatre’s Heavier Than… you will sense that this story is both minimalist and full, simple but rich, pure but tainted, and it will make you to realize perception and reality are often opposites.
Heavier Than… is written by Steve Yockey (Fisherman’s Wife, Pluto) and is a modernization of the Greek story of the Minotaur in the labyrinth. In the classical Greek story, King Minos’s wife was tricked by Poseidon into falling in love with a white bull and delivering a trans(species) baby, viewed as a monster, banished to live in a labyrinth. In this play, we see Aster the Minotaur trapped in the labyrinth since he was a toddler, hoping his upcoming birthday will finally bring a visit from his beloved mother.
This play takes the stand that the minotaur is really a victim of circumstance and the manipulating chorus of Fates. He is not a horrible monster he is actually a sweet, lonely man-child, trying to disassociate himself with his beastly side, looking for the good in everyone, and ultimately wanting to be perceived as a good son. Landon E. Horton is a minotaur you would want to be friends with. He is mostly sweet, kind, and hungry for interaction. His body is soft, not the body of a warrior wanting to be feared, and his horns hang heavy and huge.
The people he interacts with are actually more beastly than he. The chorus of Fates (Nicole A. Hershey, Maggie Lou Rader and especially Miranda McGee) provide a lot of the humor and sensuality in this play. The three have excellent timing and interplay, as they spin, apportion and gyrate through the silver threads of his life.
As Icarus, Nathan Tubbs creates a smarmy X-gamer, risk-taker and flyer, focused on his own need for more excitement, sexual or otherwise. Also beautifully embodying the narcissism of youth, is Jordan Trovillian as Aster’s self-centered half-sister Ariadne. The regal Piper Davis passionately shows us both sides of the minotaur’s mother.
The title—Heavier Than… accurately asserts that the tone of this play is dark, and doesn’t have a happy ending. It is the opposite of It’s A Wonderful Life and not for the depressed. The light in Aster’s life of solitude is his perception of his mother. He tries to be a beacon of love, not the killer portrayed in myth. He truly believes “I am a good son,” and his Chorus enables him to keep believing for years, but Icarus destroys that myth as he destroys himself.
There are other things that appear ‘heavier than’ they might actually be—the minotaur’s’ horns are huge, weighing him down literally and figuratively (although I was assured they were in fact rather lightweight). The setting looks like heavy, heavy concrete that is masculine, smooth, curved, and impermeable. Amazing job by the set team (Andrew J. Hungerford scenic and lighting design, Sarah Beth Hall Associate Designer, Scenic Charge and Props Master, Olivia Leigh, Assistant Scenic Charge, Nick Kohlke Technical Direction): so well painted, formed and lit. Every prop was perfect, from the real daisies to the silver rope, to the wings. A complete surprise, beautifully executed is the retelling of the Greek myth using shadow puppets. Body-conscious Grecian-style costumes are designed by Noelle Johnston with husband Brandon Johnston responsible for wings and horns.
Heavier Than… is different from Fisherman’s Wife also by playwright Steven Yockey, produced with great fun and camp last year by Know Theatre. Here, director Bridget Leak focuses on a classical approach, featuring simple lines with great strength, having a lighter hand, with heavy material. This 80 minute play will give you plenty to ruminate upon, as you contemplate whether perception or reality controls you.
Heavier Than… runs through April 1 at Know Theatre. For tickets: knowtheatre.com or 513-300-KNOW.