Review Rundown: “Heavier than…”

Critic’s Choice “A few things are working in favor of this theatrical long-shot. First, there’s the masculine beauty and brooding sensitivity of shirtless Nick Ballard, who plays the half-man, half-bull creature with a James Dean scowl, camera-ready six-pack and dapper pair of horns. Then there’s Abigail Deser’s stylish staging, which revels in the play’s springy non-naturalism while never stomping on its tender heart. And finally there’s Yockey’s spryly inventive take on an ancient myth, a revisionist approach mixing Classical gravitas with campy humor and post-Freudian angst.”

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GO! “Spinning together and mixing up myths from Greek Mythology, Steven Yockey crafts an enjoyable fable about love, hubris and human folly. The central character here is The Minotaur, Asterius (the sinewy Nick Ballard, sporting a gigantic pair of horns), a creature part bull and part man imprisoned in a maze-like labyrinth, who, in this re-imagining, is a sensitive beast tormented by dreams of his long absent mother, Pasiphae (Jill Van Velzer), and a consuming love for his sister, Ariadne (Laura Howard). His isolation is somewhat assuaged by the divinatory powers and presence of the white clad chorus (Ashanti Brown, Teya Patt, Katie Locke O’Brien), whose constant chatter and antics account for a good share of laughs throughout. More humor comes when the very gay Icarus (Casey Kringlen) drops in — literally — with wings shedding feathers (a portent of things to come), cracking jokes and incessantly hitting on Asterius. Yockey’s clever script becomes somewhat puzzling towards the show’s end, but for most of this 75-minute piece, it is thoroughly engaging. Abigail Deser’s fine direction brings out the best in her cast. Kurt Boecher’s scenic design team adds a strong element of the rustic with a visually appealing assemblage of towering, crated rocks. Robert Prior’s shadow puppets, wings and video design are equally impressive, as are his simple mix of costumes. (Lovell Estell III)”

“Classic myths offer tempting opportunities for muckin’ about. “Beowulf,” for instance, was never the same once John Gardner’s “Grendel” retold it from the monster’s p.o.v. “Heavier Than…” is Steve Yockey’s dramatic prequel to Theseus’ victory in the labyrinth, focusing on minotaur Asterius (Nick Ballard) with doomed aviator Icarus (Casey Kringlen) tossed in as his flirtatious BFF.”

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“The production is given gorgeous designs, including a sweeping set that fits the needs of the storytelling. The script’s metaphor, literateness, deliberate anachronisms, and universality bespeak potential.”

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Heavier Than… is at times poetic, though the playwright also uses the vernacular to make his point and to color this tale of the Minotaur with a certain contemporary sheen. The play also struck me as having a certain raw and even confessional flavor. Lowell’s Prometheus was infused with his own torturous and conflicted personality. Similarly, it seemed to me that Yockey’s treatment of Asterius represents very personal issues of sexual identity and conflicts with one’s mother. Without knowing the playwright I couldn’t say that these themes come from his own life, but they have the ring of lived truth.”

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“The leading character is the minotaur – the offspring of a queen’s copulation with a bull in Greek myth. In many depictions of the minotaur, he has a bull’s head and a man’s body from the neck down. A silhouetted image of such a creature appears on the program cover of the Boston Court production. Yet Nick Ballard, who plays the minotaur, wears a only a bull’s horns to reflect his father’s side of his genetic heritage. He was allowed to keep his human face uncovered. Yockey is attempting to make the minotaur seem more human than usual. The characters speak with contemporary American syntax and accents, and in the minotaur’s visions of his mother and sister, they’re wearing contemporary clothes.”

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“All of these people form the canvas for a play about purpose and truth, and controlling one’s own fate. There is much about impulse, and the meaning of a person’s life. In the end, is the Minotaur a good son, for doing what is expected, or the monster that those outside the labyrinth believe? Is it good to give a chained soul hope, even if that hope is unlikely or unreal? Does any of this alter the final outcome, or the way the story will be told? The layers keep unfolding.”

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“In the end, Heavier Than… A Strange Account of Asterius in the Labyrinth does not disappoint and more often stirs and provokes in a variety of directions. See the play. Support the Theatre at Boston Court. Be provoked, unsettled, wryly amused and leave — either heavier or lighter, and this your choice —yet hugged, slapped and soothed by a stellar dramatic experience. It is good theatre.”

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“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.”

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“Yockey’s take on this classic Greek story is really quite clever. He flips the point of view, this time telling the side of the much maligned Minotaur, Asterius. Keeping Asterius company in his prison are Icarus and a trio of blind women on lighted, suspended swings upstage right. The three are decked out in unique but matching ivory lace outfits that feel like a particularly hip Victorian garden party.”

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“Tomorrow is Aster’s 30th birthday.  He pines for his mother to come visit him.  He has not seen her since his banishment to the labyrinth when he was 3.  Meanwhile the younger and besotted Icarus drops in, uninvited, sporting a splendid pair of feathered wings his father has created for him so he will be able to escape the labyrinth.  It would be hard to imagine a better personification of an adolescent crush than Kringlen’s Icarus.  Now, if you remember your mythology, the stories of Icarus and the minotaur are only tangentially connected.  However, in “Heavier Than …,” flirtatious Icarus’ relationship to Aster is central.”

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“If you, as a child, spent many an hour considering the varied tellings of myths and legends of the ancient Greek and Roman gods and goddesses, then Boston Court’s “Heavier Than” is definitely for you. Making its world premiere in Pasadena this last weekend, Steve Yockey’s play is swift (75 minutes or so without an intermission), flirty and witty, but ultimately heartbreaking.”

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