Monday, June 6, 2016

Review: Variations on a Fairy Tale

By Michael Block

Whether we realize it or not, fairy tales have a special place in our lives. These stories have been passed down from generations to generations. And through time, the stories themselves may have received a few facelifts and edits but the themes are still prevalent. In A.N.O.N. Productions’ Snow by Ashley Griffin, the themes of the Brothers Grimm’s "Snow White" are explored in an overstuffed production that never really finds its footing.
Snow takes the themes and motifs of one of the most infamous fairy tales and tries to deconstruct them in a grand manner. The only problem is it’s a little too grand and impractically unadulterated. Written by Ashley Griffin, who also happens to play a heavy part in the play, Snow is virtually three narratives competing to be the fairest of them all. It’s clear that Griffin has an affinity for Snow White and the themes within. She tries to pull them out in a theatrical fashion but for it to resonate properly, Snow is in desperate need of dramaturgical assistance. The three story lines Griffin integrates starts with the original scribes, the Brothers Grimm, rewriting their stories, which happens to be about the fairest princess. We move into the story of a Victorian theater family whose lives parallel the "Snow White" tale when mommy dearest grows jealous of her daughter’s rise of fame and affection. Finally, we meet a modern girl with an alcoholic mother who finds herself in a deep sleep coma and must decide whether it’s better to wake or die. The trio of tales are forcibly scrambled and intertwine in a fashion that destroys a momentous arc. Snow isn’t an adaptation or really a reimagining. It’s a theatrical thesis on the Grimm’s story that is repetitive and often uninteresting. Individually, the three narratives could be stimulating on their own. Sure, they call attention to one another but it’s explored in a manner that is predictable. The other woe is Snow runs inexcusably over 120 minutes without an intermission. Griffin and company made the smart move of not incorporating an act break but it proves the great desire to trim down the text. Or find a different compelling structure.
Theatricality in storytelling was the attempt for director Devin Vogel. Fluidity was on the side of Vogel, effortlessly bouncing from storyline to storyline. For the most part, he was able to pull out the themes within the text but simply due to the one-dimensional characters, the piece flat lined. Vogel couldn’t bring any big moments into the production. Thematically, the soundtrack that was included ranged from emo alternative rock and the occasional tinge of classic tunes. It was evocative and married the worlds well. But you have to wonder if it was just too on point to include “Someday My Prince Will Come”, especially against the commentary of Disneyfying fairy tales.
The sextet that comprised the ensemble played well with the structure of the world. But there were some who stuck out more than the others. Leading the bunch was Maria Deasy in the maternal track and Ian Way in the romantic lead track. Both were game players, finding nuances in their various characters. Playing the central role as well as wearing the playwright hat may not have served Ashley Griffin the best. Whether it happened to be the commentary of the character or simply the performance, Griffin’s trio of characters was overwhelmingly whiney. Where Griffin did succeed is her Disney style Snow White bits and her mastering of the ugly cry. But that's not the narrative Griffin the Playwright set forth to tell.
You have to give credit to Ashley Griffin for attempting to try something courageous in her writing but given the current format, Snow doesn’t quite live up to the tout.