Written and directed by: David Catlin. At: Lookingglass Theatre, 821 N. Michigan. Phone: 312-337-0665; $18-$62. Runs through: Jan. 24
Having seen Lookingglass' Argonautika in the past, the bar was raised high for the company's 52nd world premiere. Similar to its hit Lookingglass Alice, Icarus uses physicality and minimal props to tell the story.
The first scene begins with Patient X having fallen into a deep catatonic state and being examined by doctors. The rest of the play continues as a psychological examination with stories of the past recalling myths and deals with abstracts. The cast, composed of three women and three men, speak in unison or over top of each other throughout the show on microphones at times. They describe and become characters surrounding the story of Icarus and his father, Daedalus.
This production was originally presented as a workshop in L.A. Unfortunately, it still feels like an acting exercise. The director, David Catlin, explains that the group "felt strange offering a staged reading as a part of their season" and tried to make it more than that. Well they did, but not much more.
There are some nice moments such as involving the audience in flying paper airplanes and the aerial gymnastics segment was impressive.
There was a feeling of David Schwimmer's "got a barn. Let's put on a show!" The limited props felt caught in the recession. Poseidon dons a scuba mask and wears a towel. When babies were presented as small suitcases it was a little too symbolic from a company with such strong puppetry work in the past.
The choreography had some nice elements but could have tied together the various exercises. Some ideas were almost lost on the viewers. It appeared all Greek to the audience member behind me, who had to have a whispered explanation as to the use of a suitcase representing the dead Minotaur's head. The young Icarus suffers to solve a puzzle; meanwhile, the audience was lost somewhere in the maze of the minotaur, played by Adeoye.
The ensemble worked well together. Adeoye's physique helped with the lifts and makes him a formidable half bull/man. Likewise, Anthony Fleming III's muscles are striking on stage and he plays the part of Theseus well. Nicole Shalhoub is the standout for the women, and should soar in future productions.
Some may say that this company doesn't need a big budget or their friend's money to convey a meaning and put on a good show; this is true. At times the cast pulled together and summoned up real emotion. The heart of this tragic tale is about a father's love for his son. This is definitely a story worth telling but don't expect people to pay for a theater workshop, especially these days. Think of how the marketing could be more effective around Father's Day. There is a great fable to be told but gets lost in the telling and how it might have been conveyed.
Is Icarus for the birds? In my case I was looking for a more polished show and, in that respect, Icarus went down in flames.