The Snow Queen
By Stanton Wood
Adapted from the story by Hans Christian Anderson
Directed by Neill Robertson
Review by Keith Waits
Entire contents are copyright © 2014 Keith Waits. All rights reserved.
A tale for children is always better if it can play to adults as well. Stanton Wood’s take on the classic Hans Christian Anderson does that: a fairy-tale, a fable, but also a story ripe for finding metaphors to modern society.
Kay (Alex Amaya) is Gerda’s (Shannon Austin-Wood) friend but when a tear from the Snow Queen’s mirror falls into his eye, any feelings of sadness become magnified. His intense melancholy is numbed by a trip to the South Pole with the Snow Queen, and Gerda follows in search of her friend. Along the way she encounters several colorful characters, including The River (London Camba), The Giant Squid (Andrew Wagner) and The Robber Maiden (Zoe Peterson).
Although I don’t want to overburden a charming and funny children’s play by becoming overly analytical, the parallels to our current understanding of mental illness, and depression in particular, are impossible to ignore. Kay’s depression is manifested in some of the creatures Gerda meets along the way, illustrated by having Alex Amaya shadowing these characters for brief moments, speaking their lines in unison. It is a powerful expression of the notion that classic fairy tales have always had deeply psychological underpinnings in the first place.
The level of performance of this, the less “experienced” Walden Theatre students, starts shaky but gains confidence as it goes, and the ensemble members who were given the opportunity to play individual characters were memorable. William Dolan’s affectionately sharp-tongued grandmother, and Andrew Wagner’s Giant Squid (in appropriately ridiculous costume) were riotously funny, while Demi Handley’s Yojaba was a figure of surprising and sassy authority and Zoe Peterson’s Robber Maiden was also one of the more fully realized characters.
The design work is simple and only grand when necessary, and director Neill Robertson uses sound and music effectively, although there were a few times when the speakers drowned out the vocal delivery of the young cast (project kids!)
It is charming, and the Snow Queen herself (a delicately regal Frances Rippy) was ethereal and otherworldly, so do not be concerned that this is heavy sledding for young children, but The Snow Queen does offer storytelling a measure more intelligent than so many children’s offerings. Like the classic fairy tales, it gives them more credit than we adults often do.
The Snow Queen
Part of the Slant Culture Theatre Festival
Walden Theatre Young Company
1123 Payne Street
Louisville, KY 40204
Saturday, November 15 – 1:30 pm
Wednesday, November 19 – 7 pm
Saturday, November 22 – 1:30 pm
Sunday, November 23 – 1:30pm
Keith Waits is a native of Louisville who works at the Louisville Visual Art Association during the days, including being one of the hosts of PUBLIC on ARTxFM, but spends most of his evenings indulging his taste for theatre, music and visual arts. His work has appeared in Pure Uncut Candy, TheatreLouisville, and Louisville Mojo. He is now Managing Editor for Arts-Louisville.com.