Troubled Flight for “Icarus”

With Austin Auh and Corianna Moffatt. Photo courtesy of Liars & Believers Facebook Page.

Presented by Liars & Believers
Directed by Faye Dupras

May 17 & 18, 2013 (Grab tickets while you can!)
Cambridge YMCA Theater in Central Square
Cambridge, MA
Liars & Believers Facebook Group

Gillian Daniels

Liars and Believers’ Icarus is a wobbly production, a Depression Era circus fable that limps when it pushes hard to soar.  Like a small bird, the show is both endearing but weak.  Its flourishes are strong: puppets, bluegrass, and robots.  The result gives the audience a series of intriguing set pieces but nothing that really coalesces into a grand story.

Jason Slavick packs a lot into the show, the separate parts fluid and vibrant.  The lead-up to the play itself includes burlesque and music, giving the centerpiece, Minnie Minoseczeck’s Menagerie of Marvels, a vaudevillean glamour.  The trimmings for the circus are convincing, complete with posters promising a minotaur and a flying woman, Penny (Corianna Moffatt).

Penny flies through the use of a contraption by the mechanic Daedalus (Steven Emanuelson), a welcome distraction to the downtrodden from the 1930’s Dust Bowl.  They lavish her with gifts and Penny, for the most part, is happy.  She also attracts the attention of Daedalus’s precocious son, Icarus (Austin Auh), who immediately sets his sights on winning Penny’s heart.  Icarus wants to move away from the corrupt circus and its ringmaster, marry, and get a house.  She’s not so sure.

The story may borrow its names from Greek myth, including the hilarious Minnie Minosezeck (Aimee Rose Ranger) as stand-in for Classical villain King Minos, but this production is more Romeo and Juliet. Icarus and Penny’s story feels incomplete, a set-up that never quite evolves into something recognizably human.  Its love story is difficult to fall in love with.

Nathan Leigh throws in some lovely music, invoking classic Americana and the dusty back roads of another time.  Leigh’s lyrics don’t always hit home but he does succeed in planting the story in a recognizable setting.  Faye Dupras’ puppetry and design, as utilized by Veronica Barron, is also engaging.  The artistry on display is visually arresting.

Liars and Believers’ Icarus greatest strength is its surreal elements.  When it commits to being weird, like when Icarus showcases his father’s automatons to Penny, it’s enjoyable, even gorgeous.  When the show falls back on more conventional tropes, like a pair of lovers kept apart by parents who just don’t understand, the magic lessens. Like their play earlier this year, Lunar Labyrinth, it hints Liars and Believers has a promising future.  Another day, the theater group will really take flight.

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