Strange Snow

nytheatre.com review by Keelie A. Sheridan
May 12, 2011

One can’t help but feel a twinge of foreshadowing while watching Stephen Metcalfe’s Strange Snow. Though it is set ten years post-Vietnam, its world is not so different from today: young veterans are still struggling to re-enter the society they left—some by choice and some by force. After a chance meeting, Megs, a truck driver who was drafted, reaches out to his war-friend Davey, a former high school golden-boy who enlisted. Megs has worked hard to secure a sense of normalcy and acclimate to life on the other side of war and is ready to reincorporate his friends who experienced the same trauma, while Davey struggles with his dependence on alcohol and his conflicting desire to forget yet unwillingness to move on.  Davey's sister Martha dutifully tends to her brother in the stead of their absent mother, favoring her career as a teacher and role as caretaker over her personal fulfillment.  When she meets Megs, their mutual attraction encourages Martha to rethink the way she lives and who she allows herself to be. The situation displeases Davey because Megs’s presence disrupts Martha’s unfaltering attentions and dredges up painful memories of a lost friend.

Costumes by Jennie West Alexander effortlessly evoke the period. The intimate playing space at 2 Great Jones is well-suited to production designer Michael Mallard’s accurate depiction of a comfortable and modest '80s living room and kitchen.  Sound designer James Garver blends hovering helicopters with instrumental pieces that are scattered throughout the piece. I found the instances of music backing particular scenes to be a bit distracting: the music itself was not the problem—for me, it was the timing and inconsistency. A few emotionally charged scenes are scored with emotionally charged soundtracks while the rest are not, making the sporadic use of music seem almost cinematic.

There are several moments of truth for each of the characters—the quick tempered yet eager to please Megs (Mallard) is at times heartbreakingly enthusiastic, the angry and stagnant Davey (Francisco Solorzano) maintains a palpable low-boil when attempting not to lose his temper, and Martha (Kathleen Wallace) has a mild-mannered and mildly-oppressed school teacher’s modesty and insecurity that's endearing. More frequently, though, I felt a tangible disconnect between characters, actors, and dialogue. The slightly stilted and admittedly dated (were the '80s really that long ago?) dialogue of the piece seems to hold the performers back. Multiple times I found myself thinking that the performances (particularly in heightened situations) seemed very powerful, but very general and disconnected from the immediate circumstance and the individualities of the characters, rendering them somewhat two-dimensional. Several intense confrontations seemed inorganic and unengaged in the absence of strong connections between participants.

The piece itself certainly speaks to the period in which it was written, and the ending wraps it up neatly. If given the chance, I will most likely not see any production of Strange Snow again—this piece offers nothing new to the themes it discusses, and several other plays accomplish the same idea with more specificity and purpose. I will, however, be interested in seeing future work from East 3rd Productions, who successfully displayed several strong elements of theatrical production.

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