In an affluent beach neighborhood somewhere near the Hollywood dream factory, three homeless unfortunates occupy an abandoned house. Edwin Sanchez's enchanting play "Icarus," now playing at Southern Oregon University's Center Square Theater, offers a profound exploration of beauty, ego, love and illusion.
"I think I can," chants Altagracia (Hannah Grenfell), as she pushes Primitivo (Tony Kupsick), her paraplegic younger brother, in a wheelchair through the sand. Although her face is noticeably deformed, Altagracia lives on hope. She propels herself through a universe of dreams. She is her brother's trainer, a trainer of an iconic athlete, a swimmer. To prepare Primitivo for his role as a "living legend," Altagracia sends him fake fan mail and poses as an annoying paparazzi photographer.
Following the potent pair is Mr. Ellis (Dave Demuth) with his stuffed dog, Betty, and his snapping suitcase full of dreams. Mr. Ellis is able to move on as he buries symbols of his past (including Betty) in the sand. The girl next door, "the Gloria," (Ashley Reverman) is "yesterday's blond," who feels that beauty is her "only currency." The masked visitor, Beau (Jorge Paniagua), tries to forget his tragic past by hiding his good looks. However "the Gloria" outs him, "I swear the word Mattel must be tattooed somewhere on his ass."
Although Altagracia thinks she knows the "ins and outs of non-beauty," her romance with Beau blossoms she realizes that his beauty is not betrayal but constancy.
In the Greek myth, Icarus, escaping captivity, flew too close to the sun and perished by plunging into the sea. Sanchez's play inverts the myth. Primitivo dreams of escaping his grim physical reality by swimming through the ocean to the horizon and touching the sun.
In his storytelling, Sanchez evokes elements of magical realism to depict human relationships and the relationship between man and his condition. Events have no logical or psychological explanation; they hint at their inherent mystery. The play's recurring references to Hollywood remind us that movie-making creates modern mythology.
The highly skilled ensemble cast delivers nuanced performances throughout. The set, designed by Ryan Nicolai, with its sturdily constructed cottages, boardwalk and beach, is an effective mix of realism and humor. Lighting, designed by Maxwell Bowman, evokes a shimmering, dreamlike quality with shifting sunlight and shadows found at the ocean's shore.
Tastefully directed by Jimmy Garcia, "Icarus" is elegant and romantic, an entertaining tribute to the efficacy of dreams. It plays through Sunday on the SOU campus. For tickets and information, call 552-6348.