by Lynn on June 7, 2014

in The Passionate Playgoer

Airline Icarus

At Ada Slaight Hall, Daniels Spectrum, Toronto, Ont.

Music by Brian Current
Libretto by Anton Piatigorsky
Directed by Tim Albery
Musical Director, Brian Current
Designed by Teresa Przybylski
Lighting by Kimberley Purtell
Sound by Tye Hunt Fitzgerald
Vania Chan
Alexander Dobson
Geoffrey Sirett
Krisztina Szabó
Graham Thomson

The Story. A fascinating story of a simple flight to Cleveland with a bored Pilot, a frustrated Flight Attendant and three passengers, each with their own issues. Mixed into this is the story of Icarus from Greek mythology. He and his craftsman father, Daedalus, wanted to escape Crete so his father fashioned wings made of feathers and wax. Daedalus told his son not to be too complacent and fly too low for fear the moisture would clog the works, and not have hubris and fly too close to the sun because the wax would melt. Icarus had hubris. He flew too close to the sun; the wax melted and he fell into the sea and drowned. Let that be a lesson to you—listen to your parents.

The Flight Attendant hates the flight to Cleveland. She dreams of working in a larger plane to Paris. The three passengers are composed of an Ad Executive who is depressed; a Business Man who is an alcoholic; and a Scholar flying to Cleveland to give a paper on Icarus of all things.

The Business Man longs for his first vodka of the day but has eyes for the Ad Executive. The Ad Executive (a woman) wants to be left alone and resents the advances of the Business Man. She has eyes for the Scholar. The Scholar is terrified of flying, and crashing one presumes. When the Flight Attendant isn’t lamenting her lot in life, she is eyeing the Business Man. She’s attracted to him and resentful that he has eyes for the Ad Executive. Then they hit turbulence.

The Production. Director Tim Albery and his designer Teresa Przybylski do wonders with the problematic Ada Slaight Hall—problematic because it’s definitely not a proper theatre. And for music the acoustics leave a lot to be desired. Still they make the place work for this.

The audience is on one side of the room. There are banks of seats on the other side with a large space in the middle. The orchestra is at the top of the bank of seats in their own level space. Below that is a structure that looks like wings, which could be those of a sleek plane, albeit going to Cleveland, or they can be the wings of Icarus. In the space between both banks of seats is luggage. A burly man in a workers jacket hauls the luggage carelessly into another space. Then he takes off his jacket and morph into the Pilot. He climbs the stairs and takes his place on the ‘wings’.

The rest of the cast spread out along one row. The Business Man is on the aisle. The Ad Executive is in the middle. The Scholar is on the other aisle. The body language tells all. The Business Man, upright and a bit twitchy to make his move on the Ad Executive; the Ad Executive hunched over trying to avoid his gaze and dwell on her depression; and the Scholar, a mass of twitches and fidgets to suggest his distress with being on a plane at all.

The turbulence is realized certainly in the music, but also in the body language of the cast. The chorus scurry up and down the ‘aisles’; the others sway with each rock of the plane.

The whole thing is gripping and of course will remind you of any time you’ve been in such a situation.

Comment. As with any musical event I’ll focus on the theatricality of the piece and not comment on the music and singing, which are not my forte. Airline Icarus is a packed hour of theatricality and invention. The libretto by Anton Piatigorsky is full of the wit, perception and elegant phrases one would find in his plays. At one point in the turbulence the Scholar sings that “It is hubris to pretend all is normal” nicely connecting the story to Icarus. The libretto is full of those odd turns of phrase we have heard before, such as when the Business Man is hitting on the Ad Executive, “Are you going to Cleveland.” I always love that comment. They are on a plane to Cleveland, where else would they be going?

The acting of the singers perfectly conveys the boredom, angst, depression and anxiety of the people on that plane. If I have a quibble it’s that one could not clearly make out the words if sung in the chorus. They do enunciate but the acoustics as I said are not ideal. And surtitles would have been out of the question in the place. Still Airline Icarus is a worthy piece. It was my first experience with Sound Streams, the company that produced it. I look forward to more of their productions.

Produced by Sound Streams

Opened: June 3, 2014
Closes: June 8, 2014
Cast: 5, 3 men, 2 women
Running Time: 1 hour

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