Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
Lift: Icarus and Me
Lift: Icarus and Me, now on stage at Theater of the First Amendment at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, is part of an ongoing series of family musicals by Mary Hall Surface (book, lyrics, direction) and David Maddox (music, lyrics, musical direction) that re-interpret Greek myths and fairy tales in uniquely American ways. Audiences who enjoyed their earlier works probably will like this one as well, but at present it comes across as rather sketchy and the pace drags.
The earlier works of Surface and Maddox include a retelling of the adventures of the Greek mythological hero Perseus, set in the Louisiana bayou, and the self-explanatory Mississippi Pinocchio. The current musical brings together several noteworthy characters of Greek myth with the American myths of the wild West and the pioneers of heavier-than-air flight; its bouncy (if not memorable) score is infused with ragtime and western swing.
The original Greek story tells of Daedalus, who devises a set of wings made out of wax and feathers, and his son Icarus, who flies too close to the sun while using his father's invention. In this version, an older Daedalus (Richard Pelzman) has set aside his interest in aviation to be a bean farmer in eastern Texas in 1899 and raise his grandson Lenny (Dwayne Nitz) the son of Icarus (Kurt Boehm). Lenny knows nothing about how his father died; his only hint is that his father named him for another visionary fascinated with the mechanics of flight, Leonardo da Vinci.
Daedalus is determined to keep Lenny safe and far from the skies; he encourages the boy's fear of heights and even nicknames him "Root." Lenny, however, is tortured by dreams of flight involving one man in a bird suit, another holding a model boat suspended from a balloon, and other strange images.
The lives of Lenny and Daedalus get a shakeup from the arrival of a ragtag carnival run by Minus (Sherri L. Edelen) although the jokes about pronouncing her name "Meenus" get tired quickly. Minus is the mother of the sweet aerialist Ariadne (Jenna Sokolowski) and adoptive mother of the high-spirited sharpshooter Atalanta (Jennifer Timberlake). Lenny soon has a rival for Ariadne's hand, a self-promoting cowboy named Theseus (Evan Casey), who comes "all the way from Athena ... Ga."
The cast, specifically the women, is strong and capable, the five-piece band conducted by Maddox is lively, but the overall effect is rather thin. Lift: Icarus and Me currently runs an hour and 40 minutes with an intermission, but some tightening will allow it to go faster and perhaps eliminate the intermission.
Theater of the First Amendment