As the epic cinematic flop "The Road" (adapted from the book by Cormac McCarthy) proved in November, the father-son dynamic may tear at your heartstrings on the page, but it doesn't always translate to the screen...or, in the case of David Catlin's "Icarus," the stage. Though the adapters made very different mistakes, both productions come up short in terms of fully developing a father-son relationship that the audience can buy into and care about. And since the entire winding plot of "Icarus" is (for the most part) centered around three distinct father-son relationships, this is a fairly large problem.
As a show, "Icarus" is a hybrid of dazzling performance art and slightly stilted drama. Opening with a familiarly barren set (Lookingglass does well with minimalist transformations), the actors quickly morph from calm, collected doctors spouting medical terminology into three sets of expectant parents (or "three men and three women" as the script refers to them). As the show progresses, the six performers embody various different characters, with the interactions between Icarus (Lindsey Noel Whiting) and his father Daedalus (Lawrence E. DiStasi) providing the core storyline. The relationships between kings Minos and Theseus and their respective sons are also heavily explored. But even as we're impressed by the talent and dedication of the actors, not to mention their often physically trying choreography (highlights of the show), the meandering script detracts from any sense of purpose or drive that the actors create. By the time the show reaches the climactic finale of the Icarus myth (where an eager young boy coated in feathers flies fatally close to the sun), the audience is likely to be too distanced from the characters to feel the pain and heartbreak that Daedalus expresses.
Much like a Cirque du Soleil show, "Icarus" is best when exploring the boundaries of flying choreography and spectacle (the sight of everyone in a crowded theater simultaneously throwing paper airplanes onto the stage is memorable). Artistic Director Catlin would do well to spend more time developing the emotional core and cohesion of the story.