'Daedalus' works on multiple levels

October 02, 1992|By J. Wynn Rousuck | J. Wynn Rousuck,Theater Critic

Although many of us first became acquainted with classical mythology as children, these dark complex stories are anything but kids' stuff.

However, it is typical of the inventiveness of "Daedalus in the Belly of the Beast" -- a co-production by Touchstone Theatre of Bethlehem, Pa., and Teatro La Memoria of Chile -- that this production encompasses both a child's sensibility and the ominous quality of the ancient myths.

And, as is evident from the opening image at the Theatre Project, this bilingual collaboration also encompasses a lot more. Rodrigo Perez's Daedalus, for instance, looks like a clown, wearing baggy clothes and white face. This character, together with the use of narrative recorded by a young boy, represents the child's angle -- an angle familiar from such Touchstone productions as "Candide" and "We All Fall Down," both previously presented at the Theatre Project.

But as soon as we meet Daedalus' son, Icarus, we realize this is no show for children. Pablo Schwarz's kinky Icarus wears a tiny red skirt, and his bare chest is decorated with body paint. As King Minos' daughters, Pauline Urrutia and Amparo Noguera wear tutus over girdles with garters and stockings. And like their mother, Pasiphae (Susan Chase), their left hands are green.

Odd? You bet. But no more odd than a legend about a queen who falls in love with a bull, mates with him thanks to the help of a magician, then produces a son who's half man-half bull. That, of course, is the start of the story of Daedalus, the magician. And fortunately, that story is summarized in the program since this play covers so much territory so fast.

Yet Chilean playwright Marco Antonio De La Parra has dared to add further layers to this involved story. As one character bluntly puts it: "It's blood and it's sex" -- a basic but graphic interpretation that is also the key to the predominantly red, black and white physical production.

The scene of Pasiphae's rendezvous with the bull is one of the clearest examples of the way this piece operates on multiple levels. With a red light shining in her face, Pasiphae sits next to a tape recorder, listening to her own account of her sexual encounter. This scene simultaneously suggests an interrogation, perversion and, of course, Ovid.

Somehow, it isn't surprising to learn the playwright is also a psychiatrist. This unusual production surrounds you with as many coils of meaning and resonances as there are walls in Daedalus' maze. In just 65 minutes, the audience is bathed in memories of childhood, mysteries of sex and death, and the frightening torture tactics of Third World regimes. Granted, the action is at times as convoluted as a maze, but the sensation that lingers is as haunting as myth itself.

'Daedalus in the Belly of the Beast'

When: Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m.; Sunday at 3 p.m.

Where: Theatre Project, 45 W. Preston St.

Tickets: $14.

Call: (410) 752-8558.

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