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Cutting Ball Production of 'Bone to Pick' and 'Diadem' Modernizes Ariadne Myth

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Rob Melrose/Courtesy


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Bone to Pick" and "Diadem" is a prime example of the efforts of San Francisco's The Cutting Ball Theater, which prides itself on artistry, novelty and the absurd. After all, the show is directed by Cutting Ball artistic director Rob Melrose, stars Cutting Ball associate artistic director Paige Rogers, and is written by the newly-appointed Cutting Ball playwright-in-residence Eugenie Chan. This show is, if anything, an all-star Cutting Ball affair.

"Bone to Pick" and "Diadem" are two 40-minute pieces; both of them one-woman shows. "Bone to Pick" originally ran on its own in 2008, but for the purposes of this production, "Diadem" was commissioned and added to precede and give context to "Bone." The story that unfolds in both is the tale of Ariadne: the Cretan princess who makes the mistake of helping the Athenian hero Theseus find his way through the labyrinth to slay the half-man, half-bull (and half-Ariadne's brother) Minotaur. Theseus promises to marry her in return for her advice-a promise he keeps up until a few days later when he abandons her for eternity on the desert island of Naxos. Talk about getting the short end of the deal.

In "Bone," the Ariadne character is reincarnated as a vengeful diner waitress named Ria, who serves her invisible customers day in and day out while drinking foul-looking water out of a coffee pot in her supposedly deserted, post-apocalyptic world. Theseus is reborn as a rowdy customer named "Theo" who comes to diner demanding rib-eye steak-the greasy-spoon analogue for the Minotaur. As Ria, Rogers' accent is perfectly comedic and realistic, and her physical demeanor exudes an uneven mixture of nerves and nonchalance. From the bloodstains on her apron to the pencil holding up her hair, everything she says and does is so powerfully evocative of a vision of an Americana wasteland, it's almost scary.

"Bone to Pick" seems to be the focus of the production. It is, after all, listed first in the production's title even though it's the second act. Traditionally, Cutting Ball tends to like productions that force the audience to work a little to understand. Their fear in this case seems to be that to an audience unfamiliar or even only slightly familiar with the myth, "Bone" might come off as somewhat indecipherable. That's why, at least in this combination, "Diadem" is shown first.

Weaving her way among fertility goddess statuettes adorning the otherwise bare stage, Rogers in "Diadem" portrays a younger, more recently abandoned Ariadne reminiscing from the shores of Naxos. Set in ancient times, the play maintains a florid poetic meter interspersed with moments of modernity and innuendo. Playwright Chan has a way with language-her lines are remarkably accessible but manage to maintain an antique linguistic air, as if they came out of another time. From Ariadne's lyrical ramblings the story of Theseus and the Minotaur emerges and skillfully pieces itself together.

As much as "Diadem" provides the context for audiences to tackle the next play, one almost wishes that such context wasn't necessary, and that "Bone" could really stand alone. For some reason, Rogers' Ariadne is not as convincing as her Ria. This could simply be because Rogers seems so much at home in the latter role, making "Bone" more emotionally engaging-even if its plot and message are far less than obvious. It's not to say that "Diadem" isn't worthwhile in its own right, either. It is, without a doubt, a wonderfully staged retelling of the Ariadne myth. It's just that, when combined with "Bone," it feels more like a beautifully written footnote that you are forced to read first.


Invest in a fertility goddess statuette with Arielle at [email protected]



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