I loved Talya Rubin’s play, Ariadne’s Thread. I really did. But when I try to rave about it, a snarky voice in the back of my mind insists on being a little dubious. Broken hearts may be a staple of country music, but as a premise for a play, they risk sounding cliché.
The story behind the semi-autobiographical plot can perhaps conjure images of an overly dramatic adolescent: A 19-year-old girl falls passionately in love, gets dumped, then exiles herself in a cave for 10 months on the Greek island of Santorini. As her broken heart heals, she writes a series of poems that are later turned into a one-woman play, which will be performed at the Montreal Fringe Festival beginning this Friday.
I shouldn’t have been so skeptical. Rubin managed to cleverly sidestep any possible cheese factors to create something truly charming and unique out having her heart broken, which now occurred nearly ten years ago. This is probably because it isn’t a poor-me play about her own feelings, but one in which many other characters take center stage. Only a highly accomplished actor could switch between 12 different personas and make them all seem convincing. Rubin aces the challenge admirably, particularly the Greek accents and her impression of a snorting, prancing donkey.
Ariadne’s Thread weaves Rubin’s interactions with her island neighbours together with ancient Greek myths. The result is entertaining and at times hilarious, particularly her rendition of an old man, Spiros, recounting the story of Pasiphae and the bull over glasses of ouzo in the village bar. Pasiphae, wife of King Minos, was made to fall passionately in love with a bull after her husband insulted the god Poseidon. In a more controversial scene, Rubin switches from acting out Spiros’s character to becoming Pasiphae, as she convinces the inventor Daedalus to create a wooden cow costume so that she can seduce the bull. Rubin’s frenetic impression of a woman having sex with a bull was one of the highlights of the play. Bestiality scenes may be of questionable taste, but somehow it doesn’t seem gross at all when the petite Rubin imitates it by flapping her shawl and dancing around.
The myth at the heart of the play is, of course, the story of Ariadne, parts of which closely mirror Rubin’s own experience of falling in love. Ariadne has a big crush on Theseus, who comes to the island of Crete to slay the Minotaur in the labyrinth. Pieces of the play start to come together as we learn that the Minotaur is the progeny of the love-making between Pasiphae and the bull. Ariadne gives Theseus a ball of string so that he can find his way out of the maze after killing the Minotaur. Afterward, Ariadne marries Theseus and has her night of passion, only to wake up the next morning to find that Theseus has left her for good.
Rubin is a Montrealer who moved to Melbourne, Australia 6 years after leaving the cave on Santorini. Ariadne’s Thread opened to rave reviews at various Fringe Festivals in Australia last year, and she recently performed it in Prague. Now, she’s taking it home to the Montreal Fringe Festival and will be moving to Montreal for good.
Ariadne’s Thread won’t give you any life-changing insights on the meaning of life, but it will prove for once and for all that, yes, there is indeed life after love. The play will be performed on the CFCF-CTV Stage at 3997 St. Laurent Blvd from June 10 to June 19. For show times, see http://www.montrealfringe.ca