Myth, metaphor and pathos are all stirred up into one tightly woven 90 minute emotional roller coaster drama as playwright Edwin Sanchez gives us inward and outwardly flawed characters all in the lore of Icarus. Presented by one of my favorite companies, Bohemian Theatre Ensemble, Director P. Marston Sullivan has carefully selected a cast that has been able to flesh out fully drawn characters from a script that leaves much to the actor's imagination and discretion.
Sanchez's piece brings into focus how much emphasis we place on outward appearances and how deceptive we can be to the ones we care about to not only protect them, but in certain situations, give the ultimate sacrifice to allow others to truly fly.
The Icarus character here comes in the form of a wheel-chair bound, would be swimming star Primativo, wonderfully encaptured by Nicolas Gamboa who is under the constant care and guidance of his facially disfigured sister, Altagracia, a tour-de-force performance by Brenda Arellano. Homeless, they take refuge at an empty beach house. Primativo begins his training in the ocean, for which it is his goal to one day swim out far enough to be able to touch the sun and thus gain world wide fame. The relationship between Primativo and Altagracia is so real and touching that the audience is immediately effected by the love and respect of the brother/sister relationship.
Primativo and Altagraica are watched over by Mr. Ellis, who takes up residence under the front porch of the beach house. Clearly a victim of life's cruelty, Mr. Ellis, masterfully played by Tom Chiola, offers up a persons' dream only to have it crushed before it reaches fruition. He is an outsider longing to belong yet doesn't know how to fit in to other peoples reality.
All is stirred up when a masked man arrives who throws everyone's emotions into high gear. As Beau, Luke Daigle is sly, edgy, morose and humble. A victim of circumstances, Beau's mask is deeply internal and Daigle shows much depth as an actor in how his character's pain as progressed to the point of having to wear a mask to cover what most would consider perfection.
Finally, a fading actress, ala Norma Desmond, occupies the beach house next door. The wonderful Heather Townsend gives The Gloria much sympathy for a character who is largely unsympathetic.
Wonderful acting aside, Sanchez tends to take his audience for granted at times. What should be subtle in tone is often spoon fed via over simplistic dialogue. Mr. Sullivan's direction does much to help give this play the gravitas the actors end up evoking. Much of Mr. Sullivan's qualities are subdued, as in one scene where Primativo is sitting alone is his wheelchair in the doorway and is framed like a beautiful oil painting starring out into the world in which he so wants to conquer and conquer he does, and so, ultimately does this production.
Icarus plays through July 24, 2011 at Theatre Wit, 1229 W. Belmont. For tickets, please call the box office at 773-975-8150 or visit www.bohotheatre.com