Icarus at Bohemian Theatre Ensemble | Theater review
Boho offers an impressive production of Edwin Sanchez’s uneven meditation on beauty.
Edwin Sanchez’s meditative and playful 1996 Icarus begins with a brother and a sister on a beach. With Altagracia’s (Brenda Arellano) encouragement, the disabled Primitivo (Nicolas Gamboa) swims toward the sun, hoping to touch it. There are those who would dissuade him from such a goal—but not his sister, who has devoted her life to his care.
Boho delivers an impressive production, but the ambitious script isn’t consistently gripping. The spiritual center of the play lies with the truly gracious Altagracia, who is afflicted with facial deformities. Arellano plays the role with a fierce energy (though she is hardly convincing as ugly). “What if you could have any dream but you missed it because you wouldn’t even try?” she is asked. Altagracia is not afraid; her scars have strengthened her character.
By contrast, The Gloria (Heather Townsend) has paid the price for overvalued physical beauty. “Who would want me without my face?” she wonders honestly; Townsend brings a moving and searching sadness to what could be a stock comic portrayal. Recalling the P.G.O.A.T. (the Prettiest Girl of All Time) of David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest—that other soulful circa-1990s meditation on beauty and deformity—Sanchez’s most physically beautiful character is scarred in a way that rebukes the value of physical perfection. Like Wallace, Sanchez is aware that deformity and beauty are not opposite states. Ultimately, Icarus is a celebration of the beauty of dreams, which can’t be measured objectively; like Oscar Wilde, Sanchez wants to celebrate the gutter rats who spend their lives looking up at the stars.