Beauty and the best


By Edwin Sanchez
Directed by Dennis Smith
The Fourth Unity
The Bank Street Theatre
155 Bank Street (353-3837)
Non-union production (closes Dec. 23)
Review by Andrés J. Wrath

From his breakthrough play Trafficking in Broken Hearts to his latest N.Y. offering, Icarus, playwright Edwin Sanchez continues to be a force to be reckoned with. The elements that permeate a Sanchez play are the seeds of great drama: chance meetings, impossible love, and the cold realities that get in the way of our dreams; coupled with a master's use of action, character, metaphor, dialogue that crackles, and stage knowhow and you have yourself an actual theatre artist as dependable and masterful as you'll see working on the stage in this day and age. A note of depression, however, as in Fourth Unity's other heart-stopping production of his Road: will there be a life for this stunning, luminous, and heartrending production after December 23rd - and why isn't everyone doing Edwin Sanchez plays?

Without giving too much of the story away, Fourth Unity gives Sanchez another standout production, which couldn't earn enough praise for the cast and the director. Marlene Ramirez-Cancio as Altagracia was radiant and a breath of fresh air. Her finely detailed performance never fell into the traps that many lesser actresses might have fallen into. Matthew Gorrek's Beau gave her much to play off. Without these two passionate actors fighting and yearning for each other, she being disfigured and he stunningly beautiful, the play would have been less than it should have been. Tony Hamilton's Mr. Ellis was heartbreaking as a man who runs from a past he can never forget. Ann Chandler did what she did in Sanchez's Road giving another wrenching, beautifully realized performance as the Goria (small the), and last but never least Ivan Davila, who continues to amaze in role after role, gives Primitivo a body that is mangled, a heart of a scared child, and a soul as glorious as the most beautiful music ever composed.

As directed by Dennis Smith, Icarus radiates a much-needed beauty rarely seen in our cold and barren theatre these days. With him behind the wheel, there was never a moment that wasn't played fully and truthfully. He got great support from Andris Krumkalns's simple yet elegant set and Renee Molina's lush and magical lights.

Perhaps there is no place for great plays, actors, or excellent productions in New York City. Maybe commercialism and flat TV sitcoms really do dominate the American stage, with no room for poetry or substance. Are there any talented producers or backers to give this gem a bigger life outside of its run? Maybe not. But then again, as in any one of Sanchez's plays, anything can happen. And in the case of this glorious production, one sure hopes it will, shedding a much-needed hope for us lucky few in the theatre.

Box Score:

Writing: 2

Directing: 2

Acting: 2

Set: 2

Costumes: 2

Lighting/Sound: 2

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Copyright 2000 Andrés J. Wrath