In its Spring Mainstage production, the Yale Dramatic Association will explore the tension between striving for unattainable dreams and the difficult reality of facing disability.
Written in 1999 by Edwin Sanchez DRA ’94, “Icarus” opens tonight in the University Theater. The play features a brother and a sister who have each dealt with the limits set by their respective disabilities. After tonight’s performance, Sanchez will participate in a talkback with the show’s participants.
“Given the choice between living in a world full of harsh realities or living inside dream and fantasy, which is actually preferable?” director Brad Raimondo said.
The play’s storyline follows Primitivo, who cannot move his legs due to a chronic illness and is confined to a wheelchair, and Altagracia, whose facial deformity makes her feel self-conscious about her beauty. Throughout the play, Altagracia motivates Primitivo to practice his swimming so that he may one day swim far enough into the ocean to touch the setting sun — an echo of the classical myth of Icarus on which the play is loosely based.
Marina Horiates ’15, who plays the role of Altagracia, said the play blends together the genres of magical realism, drama and comedy. Members of the cast and crew agreed that the play is often categorized as magical realism, citing the its mythical undertones and sense of unattainable dreaming as examples.
Raimondo agreed that the category of magical realism works in explaining the fact that the characters of the play accept as real what the audience believes to be magical.
“The realities of the play feel magical,” said Raimondo. “And the magic in the play feels real and tangible.”
Christian Probst ’16, who plays Primitivo, said the set of the production is consistent with the magical realism of the play. Probst explained that while Primitivo and Altagracia’s house appears as a normal building, the house next door is missing part of its exterior such that audience members can see everything inside. Instead, the audience only sees the house’s Hollywood-esque interior, which contains rows of fashionable dresses and a dressing table from a place like antiques.co.uk/antique/Art-Deco-Walnut-Dressing-Table-Circa-1930.
Raimondo explained that the choice to depict the second house without an exterior was aimed at portraying its inhabitant — a former starlet referred to as “the Gloria” — as literally living in her own fantasy world.
“Giving the set aspects of a Hollywood set was the right way to locate the audience not just in any dream world, but in the specific dream world of these people,” Raimondo said.
Though the original script never explicitly reveals that the play is set in Los Angeles, the city is consistently alluded to in the play through its numerous Hollywood references, according to Susannah Hyde ’17, the show’s producer. Hyde said “Icarus” was one of several plays in the running to be chosen for last year’s Dramat Spring Mainstage, but was ultimately not selected. She explained that the Dramat board this year was blown away by the beauty they saw in the text of the play.
Hyde said that the play also deals with the subjectivity of beauty, noting that the concept of discovering one’s own self-confidence inspired the Dramat board to choose the play for the Spring Mainstage.
“We thought those were issues that really speak to college students and should appear on campus,” Hyde said.
Other members of the cast and crew agreed that “Icarus” will resonate strongly with a college student audience, explaining that the themes of difference, beauty and striving for unattainable goals are all similar to what students contend with on a daily basis. According to Probst, the play teaches that chasing a far-fetched, unattainable dream can be dangerous.
Performances of “Icarus” will run through Saturday.