nytheatre.com review by Gianfranco Lentini
July 24, 2013
Austin Auh in a scene from Icarus | Christopher McIntosh
Think you know the Greek myth of Icarus? Think again.
Welcome to Minnie’s Menagerie where the freaks are freakier, more means more, and mythology come to life! Take a trip through the Passion Pavilion, gaze in wonder at Turbo Frog Boy, or perhaps test your strength and bet everything you have left in this dismal world on the Monster’s Maze. Here, at this “Menagerie of Marvels,” liquor flows, money pours, and the only thing you can be certain of is the ground beneath your feet.
Set during the Great Depression, this year’s NYMF production of Icarus, written and directed by Jason Slavick with music and lyrics by Nathan Leigh, puts the audience front and center in the dog-eat-dog world of a traveling bazaar. As we’re constantly reminded, “Eat your fill before you’re eaten first.”
Amongst the flurry of fiddle and accordion coming from the folk band, we meet Icarus (played by Austin Auh) and Penny (played by Lauren Eicher), both of whom only know the life of the Menagerie to be their home. Progressively questioning everything they’ve known and everyone they’ve thought to love, we watch as a romance quietly blooms between them in a terrain where soft touches and warm embraces are seldom given. In this burlesque retelling of Icarus, the audience comes of age with Icarus and Penny as their eyes open to the world around them and they yearn to find an identity.
Adapted from the Greek myth Icarus (http://www.mythweb.com/encyc/entries/icarus.html) and throwing in new creative choices, what makes this production such a unique musical experience is the style in which it is performed. Combining song and dance with puppetry, the audience is captivated by the number of characters we meet along the way. From howling wolves to ballerina umbrellas and even waltzing automatons, you can’t help but to become mesmerized by the beauty that is puppetry. Heightened by the cast playing with shadows and light, the story continues to advance in an upward motion until the climax has peaked. Guided by folk-rock music, it’s almost as if the audience has left their seats to roam around Minnie’s Menagerie, even if for just 90 minutes.
Bringing this myth to life when it comes time to take off into the sky is a feat in itself, and much of the beauty of this production comes from this raw undertaking. In a world where there’s a fine line between falling and flying, our lead characters have nothing left but to test the odds of what they know and head for the horizon. Telling a story about the hardships of home and family and confronting the fear that all machines are powered by hunger and greed, Icarus brings forth those secrets that just won’t stay buried. Of course, as Penny admits, “It could be worse.”
Despite the fact that Icarus is a Boston production, for many New York theatergoers, Icarus will seem like a concoction right off the streets of Williamsburg. But what’s theatre after all without a little grit and nonconformity? Rest assured, Icarus will not let you down (pun intended).