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The Snow Queen

Local Arts Reviews

Reviewed by Barry Pineo, Fri., Nov. 3, 2000

Exhibitionism

The Snow Queen: Pure and Good

Dougherty Arts Center,

Through November 5

Running Time: 55 min

Fairy tales. They get to the heart of what we human beings are, though I've often wished I could say exactly how. Perhaps it's the magic they always contain. From the time we're very small, we want to believe in magic. Or perhaps it's the happy endings. Without question, that is one of our fondest wishes -- that all things come out right. Or perhaps it's the journey that always is taken, whether an actual physical journey or a metaphorical one. Because that's what life is, always -- a journey, a challenge, an adventure.

That's certainly the case with this utterly charming production from Second Youth Repertory Family Theatre. For while the ending can be sensed from the beginning, it's the journey that counts, and this journey is full of wonderful surprises. For those who may not be familiar with Hans Christian Andersen's story, it revolves around a demon that creates a looking glass, which shrinks all good things and enhances all bad. When the looking glass breaks, the demon is instructed by the devil to find a person pure of heart to reassemble the shattered pieces of the glass, and the demon transforms into the resplendent Snow Queen and enchants a boy named Kay. When Gerda, Kay's best friend, discovers that he has been taken, she sets out to find him.

Her journey is theatrical magic. Out of the dark and empty space of the Dougherty Arts Center stage, director J. Richard Smith and his cast and crew create raging rivers, freezing blizzards, and gorgeous gardens with flowers that talk. Bands of frightening demons stalk the stage, and flocks of swallows appear, as do a pair of funny and gregarious ravens and a truly enchanting reindeer. Many of these effects are accompanied by puppetry, masks, and colorful, sometimes simple, sometimes detailed, costumes and props. One puppet, of an old woman, is as wonderful a theatrical creation as I have seen. Tremendous credit must go to the designers and cast members, too numerous to mention here, who contribute to these myriad effects. One of the actors particularly stands out: Shane Breaux's heroine Gerda. An adult taking on the role of a child is a difficult challenge, but Breaux shows us a true innocent whose eyes we see opened to the wonders of the world.

Nowadays, there is too little magic. Nothing seems to be hidden from our children. Many seem utterly cynical by the age of seven. But for the first 40 minutes of this production, the 10-year-old youth who attended with me sat totally rapt. Afterward, when I asked him if he thought it was magical, he said no, it was just fun to watch, and he wanted to see it again.

That's enough, isn't it? For a parent seeking solid children's entertainment, it's a godsend. And what a shame that Austin does not seem to appreciate the gift given here. I saw a Saturday night performance, but the house was not even half full. I enjoyed it, and I'm no child. It's pure and good. Can a parent ask for more?

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