Billed as “an intellectual comedy of mythic proportions,” “Seven Dreams of Falling” is really “about freedom,” says playwright C. Scott Wilkerson.
Wilkerson reinvents the classic Greek myth about Daedalus and Icarus and places it smack dab in the middle of our reality TV-, internet-addicted culture. He took the cautionary tale that warns excessive pride, arrogance and ambition will inevitably lead to a fall, gave it a contemporary twist, and spun a comic yarn “about being your own man” despite or in spite of the expectations of others.
"Seven Dreams” makes its Pacific Northwest debut Friday, Sept. 15, at Collaborative Theatre Project in Medford. Obed Medina directs a cast that includes Beth Boulay, Nicholas Hewitt, John Richardson, Payne Smith and Jacob Uhlman.
Medina's multimedia production uses projections, silhouettes and soundscapes as part of the modernized myth of patriarch and labyrinth designer Daedalus, winged escape artist Icarus, bull-headed Minotaur, heroic Theseus and his girlfriend Ariadne.
In the traditional Greek myth, Icarus’ father is a talented craftsman who builds a labyrinth for King Minos of Crete to imprison the Minotaur. When Daedalus finds himself in the labyrinth after betraying the king, he fashions two pairs of wings out of wax and feathers for himself and his son. Daedalus tries his wings first, but before trying to escape the island, he lectures his son about the follies of complacency and arrogance. He warns him to neither fly too low, nor too high, and advises him to follow his path of flight. Overcome by the giddiness of flying, Icarus soars into the sky and too near the sun. The wings melt, and Icarus tumbles out of the sky and into the sea.
In Wilkerson’s play, Icarus chafes against the annual attempt to fly to the sun on waxed wings that is now a successful, highly anticipated media phenomenon managed by his press agent Theseus, radical feminist Ariadne, and Daedalus, who is consumed with proving his quantum theories of flight.
Wilkerson likens the televised event to the reality show “Keeping Up with the Kardashians.”
"Only this is ‘Keeping Up with Icarus and Daedalus,’ ” he explains during a phone interview.
Before repeating and recycling the epic, ultimately disastrous flight once again before millions of television viewers, “Icarus decides he’s not going to do it. He wants to get out of the family business.”
The play goes on “to explore the implications of going your own way … of escaping the labyrinth of ritual and tradition,” Wilkerson says.
"Does he play it safe? Or does he (metaphorically) fly higher? Does he risk, again metaphorically, plunging into the sea on his way to achieving his destiny? The myth of Icarus is the story of a human heart searching for freedom,” he continues. “’Seven Dreams’ takes that search to the edge of its possibilities. And a good bit beyond. The human heart is a labyrinth of desire.”
Wilkerson says that despite the serious theme, “Seven Dreams” is “amusing.”
The action unfolds in a series of “absurd, comic dreams,” he says. “I can’t and I won’t resist a good joke.”
"Seven Dreams” premiered in Los Angeles, but in the hands of Medina “it has been reinvented, reimagined,” the playwright says.
Wilkerson, an assistant professor of creative writing at Columbus State University in Georgia, gives kudos to “a brave young company willing to take on the challenge of staging a new work.” He credits “a genius director” and “marvelous cast” with “helping me have a new understanding of the play.
"It’s exhilarating, and an enormous honor.”
Medina says he was drawn to “Seven Dreams” because “the comedy asks whether we are doomed to repeat our mistakes — the journeys that take us too close to sun and the resulting falls.”
Wilkerson says that no prior knowledge of the Greek myth is necessary to enjoy the play.
"Audiences should come with a readiness to be entertained. The play touches on all our lives, our dream of flight, our desires, our disappointments, and our commitment to our destiny."