An elegant young woman poised behind a flowered bedecked lectern, draped in azure, handed patrons programs the way a hostess doles out menus. The opening night meal at Teatro Circulo was not, for example, foie gras, or anything else so proper-- but it was fine. Its taste was a fusion of the great myths and drama of classical Greece flavored with a putrid modern disdain of ourselves. Teaser Cow, a dark comedy written by Clay McLeod Chapman, convinces one of author Tom Robbins assessment of this playwright work. That is, it “races back and forth along the serrated edges of everyday American madness, objectively recording each whimper of anguish, each whisper of skewed desire.” Before “anguish” and “madness,” however, the show begins with a suspiciously catchy jingle accompanied by an all too happy commercial host who is selling hamburgers. From there the play unfolds into a mesh of mythological and urban landscapes that reconcile themselves cleverly, if not gorily, in the ending. The basic plot is familiar: the Minotaur is born of the punishment to King Minos given to him by his father Zeus for not sacrificing him a prized animal. Zeus forces Pasiphaë, Minos’s wife to copulate with a steer and thus conceive the Minotaur, a monstrosity, hidden in a labyrinth lest he ever escape. Teaser Cow follows that same premise with some minor 21st century adjustments.
In Chapman’s version of the myth, the characters are colorful and the majority of the action occurs in a dirty fast food kitchen. King Minos is the CEO of Minos Burgers, whose burgers are extremely tasty, but have a shocking secret. Minos’ daughter, Ariadne, works as a drive through host because her father wants her “to work her way up.” In the process of working “her way up” she has become addicted to ketchup, sucking and chewing on it like tobacco. Theseus, an Athenian burger slinger, is wooing Ariadne and his character, like others, is disgusted by the nature of his work. The origin of the infantile and mute Hysteerion, who has a gigantic bovine head and dons blue baby pajamas, is revealed to the audience slowly. Pasiphaë, the mother of Hysteerion, enjoys her liquor, which allows her to be both comically amusing and tragic.
Surveying the Mediterranean from presumably a high point in Crete, Theseus laments to Ariadne that Crete, Athens, Sparta and Corinth “have all become the same, a Minus Burgers can be found in each city!” This vignette showcases one of the many gripping temporal shifts between present and ancient time. These shifts allow for an interpretation of today’s food industry, which makes a thinly veiled suggestion: the 21st beef industry is every bit the abomination of the ancient Minotaur.
Plot aside, the company of One Year Lease is enjoyable to watch. There is a clear trust expressed between these actors who come from as far as New Zealand, Australia and Greece. If there are stand out moments then one is the whimsical midwifery of Babis Gousias, who enchants the stage with graceful mystery. Unfortunately, there were times when one hoped Gousias would have trusted the natural cadence of his voice more consistently. Christina Lind stood out as a neurotically prude Ariadne, while her mother, Pasiphaë, played by Sarah-Jane Casey, was powerfully feminine and like her on stage husband, her character reached tragic dimensions.
While there is no arguing with taste, Teaser Cow should satisfy most audiences. The plot is cleverly constructed and entertaining but also earnest. It may, however, make you consider more carefully before you order your next burger.