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Sánchez's 'Icarus' reaches for the sun

The Southern Oregon University Department of Theatre Arts is presenting a convincing production of "Icarus," Edwin Sánchez's take on the Greek myth. Fly too close to the sun and you might get burned — or transformed. Jimmy Garcia directs a strong cast in this thoughtful play. At its best, Sanchez's language can be poetic, and the story reaches a cosmic scale befitting its mythic origins. At its weakest, the dialogue can seem off-hand, the characters one-dimensional and the plot disjointed. There are lots of entrances and exits, doors opening and closing and talk of staying or leaving.

The play revolves around a brother and sister and a homeless companion who move into a beach house whose owner is out of town. They are joined unexpectedly by a young man who had planned on staying at the house by himself. An aging actress lives next door. Each of these people is damaged, and it is only by holding steadfastly to their dreams that they make it from one day to the next.

"Come on. You can give me one more day," the fading starlet, "the Gloria" (Ashley Reverman), demands of her mirror. "You owe me."

Her dreams involve physical beauty and the fame that accompanies it. Both are eluding her with each day that she grows a little older. Reverman imbues this stereotype with touches of pathos.

The brother and sister, Altagracia (Hannah Grenfell) and Primitivo (Tony Kupsick), carry physical disfigurements. She was born with a huge birthmark across her face, he was born with paralyzed legs. But Primitivo has been practicing swimming in the ocean every day, training with his sister for the big moment when he will touch the sun and achieve fame. Altagracia keeps these hopes alive by constantly preparing her brother for the demands that fame will make of him: press conferences, paparazzi encounters, signing autographs and giving acceptance speeches at award ceremonies.

"I'm her mask," Primitivo says of Altagracia. "With me she's not the girl with the ugly face; she's the sister who would do anything for her brother."

The two actors fill the roles with a wide range of humanity and animation that keeps us engaged.

Mr. Ellis, subtly portrayed by David Demuth, is the most intriguing character in the play. He carries a stuffed animal and a suitcase full of dreams which he snaps shut on those he coaxes into reaching inside. "Go on. A dream to stand between you and reality."

Beau (Jorge Paniagua) — whose name means "beautiful" — wears a ski mask to hide. "I have no face," he tells Altagracia, who is intrigued to meet someone with whom she can identify. Paniagua gives a strong characterization of a man fleeing his past who is yet compelled to embrace his future.

The show continues at 8 p.m. May 16, 21, 22, 23 and 24, with matinees at 2 p.m. May 23 and 24, at the Center Square Theatre on the Southern Oregon University campus. Call 552-6348 for ticket information.

Reach Tempo editor Richard Moeschl at 776-4486 or e-mail rmoeschl@mailtribune.com.

Hannah Grenfell plays Altagracia, Tony Kupsick, center, plays Primitivo and Jorge Paniagua plays Beau in “Icarus” by Edwin Sánchez, running May 14-24 at Southern Oregon University’s Department of Theatre Arts. - Photo by Ezra Severin