Review: Amelia Earhart faces too much exposition in 'The Minotaur'

'The Minotaur or: Amelia Earhart is Alive & Traveling Through the Underworld'

'The Minotaur or: Amelia Earhart is Alive & Traveling Through the Underworld' Scott Pakudaitis

Amelia Earhart disappeared over the Pacific Ocean in 1937. Did she crash and sink? Did she wash up on an island? Was she captured? Did she encounter Poseidon, ancient Greek god of the sea, who sent her on a mission though the underworld in search of Hades himself?

In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre

Regarding that latter theory, there's no History Channel documentary yet, but it's the proposition set forth by a new Sheep Theater production at In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre. Audiences step onstage to discover Earhart (Iris Rose Page) and her navigator Snook (Madeleine Rowe) amidst the wreckage of their downed plane.

Poseidon (Joey Hamburger) arrives distraught, informing the aviators that the feared Minotaur (Trevor Simmons) has been freed. The sea god is going to have to go search for the bull-man (with a butterfly net), while Earhart and Snook descend into a vast cave and seek help from Hades (Michael Rogers). There's a nice moment of majestic wonder when a scrim lifts to reveal the cave — which turns out to be the seating auditorium — but unfortunately, things go downhill from there.

Directed by Michael Torsch and written by Hamburger, Page, and Rogers, The Minotaur or: Amelia Earhart is Alive & Traveling Through the Underworld evinces all of Sheep's trademarks. The premise is imaginative, there are lots of gags about the challenges of simple communication, there's a cinematic score performed live by John Hilsen, and there's even a dramatically backlit stepladder. (The Minneapolis Fire Department hardly gets as much use out of ladders as Sheep Theater does.)

In this case, though, the recipe doesn't work. The company has a predilection for fiendishly complex stories that require constant infusions of exposition, which is alright when it's leavened by effective movement (The Good Boy and the Kid) or compelling characters (Pinocchio). Here, though, Earhart and Snook largely just wander back and forth across the stage while the underworld denizens explore the space: stalking across raised platforms, dropping into a trap door, even bouncing on a trampoline.

Every character, once arrived, needs to do a lot of talking to keep us abreast of what exactly is going on. There's some paternal drama between the explorers' seeming helpmate Icarus (Tara Lucchino) and her dad Daedalus (Jacob Mobley). There's a Soothsayer (Meg Bradley) whose gift needs to be explained. Minos (Robb Goetzke) serves as judge and antagonist.

As all of that gets laid out, the show basically goes nowhere. The odd premise becomes an impediment: unlike in the company's wonderful Pinocchio, where a well-known tale allowed the company to play with the audience's expectations, here we need to be told what our expectations should be. A cute cameo by Sisyphus is an example of where the show could have gone if its creators had really decided to leverage the audience's knowledge of mythology.

Tone is also a challenge: combining goofy fun with a sincere sense of wonder is Sheep's specialty, but as this dark and hectic tale unfolds, the company's stabs at character-driven humor are swamped by the galloping plot and ominous music. Mobley gets the best comic moment, as a startle-prone captive who likes to receive notice of visitors' arrival.

The company is currently planning its Fringe show, called Kaboom. That's something to look forward to, but in the meantime, despite all its percussion this Minotaur is a snooze.