Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Icarus (convergence-continuum)

‘ICARUS’ attempts to fly at convergence-continuum

“Sometimes beauty is a curse.” “Sometimes hope is disguised.” “Sometimes with love you can touch the sun.” These three lines summarize the concepts stressed in Edwin Sanchez’s play, ‘ICARUS,’ now on stage at convergence-continuum.

As with most of the theatre’s productions, Artistic Director Clyde Simon and Executive Director Brian Breth have found a script which challenges the audience to think. The dynamic duo seeks scripts which other local theatres can’t or won’t produce because they are too controversial, too abstract, or not appealing to general audiences.

Sanchez, is among the new breed of elite contemporary playwrights. His plays, from his breakout script, ‘TRAFFICKING IN BROKEN HEARTS’ concern chance meetings, impossible love, and the cold realities that get in the way of dreams. His plays take a group of oddball characters--all searching, all damaged--and have them affect each other’s lives.

In ‘ICARUS,’ as one play analyst states, “Like the Greek myth from which the play takes its name, ‘ICARUS’ is about super-charged dreamers whose wax wings melt when they fly too close to the sun. ‘ICARUS’ plays out like an inverted ‘BEAUTY AND THE BEAST’ fairy tale, though there's no magic to whip up a happy ending. But there are moments of grace that fill the play's one hundred minutes when the characters are momentarily released from their own traumas and attempt to help one another in unassuming but meaningful ways...in an enchanted setting, dreamers almost win, lovers nearly find happiness, and beauty kisses those who most deserve its fleeting glory. Reality ultimately kills the fairy tale."

The story concerns the facially disfigured Altagracia who who has found a beach house, apparently abandoned for the off-season, into which she moves her wheelchair-bound brother, Primitivo. Setting a goal for Primitivo to swim until he reaches the sun, Altagracia encourages him by stoking his dreams of fame and fortune. Mr. Ellis accompanies the duo with a stuffed cat named Betty. He also carries a valise filled with "dreams" which he taunts others to try and reach for. Beau, a friend of the owner of the house, arrives wearing a ski mask supposedly to hide the effects of a terrible accident. He is surprised to find the house occupied and wants the invaders to leave. After some negotiating everyone remains. Instead of the solitude he was expecting, Beau ends up getting, and giving, some vigorous lessons. In the house next door lives "the Gloria," a faded Hollywood legend who occupies a world of illusions about her now faded beauty.

Sanchez’s poetic writing, the abstractness of the storytelling, the use of the name Icarus yet not stressing the parallel to the actual Icarus tale, makes for abstraction which the audience may not easily grasp. Sanchez uses the myth as a point of reference, but this is not a modern retelling of it.

Convergence-continuum’s production is good, but not great. It is overly slow and needed some visual effects to induce the audience to create reality. Director Caleb Sekeres needed to pick up the pace and highlight the eccentricity of the characters even more than he did. As is, the play makes for a somewhat long sit.

Jovana Batkovic is generally effective as Altagracia, though more anguished pain needed to be obvious as she fights for normalcy while dealing with her crippled brother and her personal disfiguration. Brin Metzendorf is often on the surface as Primitivo. He needed to be more anguished until he finally finds a real purpose in life and tries to “fly” in order to free his world (his sister) from her constraints.

Clyde Simon is perfect as Mr. Ellis. He is a wonderful blend of the eccentric and the wise, in the costume of a fool. Lucy Bredeson-Smith was born to play the role of the Gloria. She creates a pathetic and vulnerable blond Gloria Swanson with ease and eerie realism.

Geoffrey Hoffman is excellent as the psychologically destroyed yet physically beautiful Beau. Hoffman, as he has proven in numerous convergence productions, seems to have the knack to take any role and make it his own.

The performance space both works for and against the performers. The limited size allows for emotional closeness to the actors. On the other hand, running through curtains as an exit to the sea ruins the illusion. Fading the lights on the main stage while the sun spot shines brightly as a visual image, as each of the characters runs into the ocean, may have made the exits more palatable.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: For those who like convergence-continuum’s selection of though provoking pieces, the script of ‘ICARUS’ will satisfy their desires. In a slightly better paced and conceived production, the experience would have satisfied the entire audience’s wants.