Regional Reviews: St. Louis
Also see Richard's review of In the Heights
Director and author Lucy Cashion has done it again with Snow White, produced by ERA, rolling out a feast of ravishing madness, this time creating a wonderland worthy of Lewis Carroll himself. But here, the "looking glass" is a projected video of various characters (including a vain queen) confronting themselves down on the stage, liveand also being confronted by a sneering spirit that speaks to them through their own image, poisoning their minds with doubt and dependency. It's all creepy and overwhelming and hilarious, which may be the three words that best describe Ms. Cashion's oeuvre to date.
Earlier this year she delivered an amazing and original Oedipus Apparatus, with great collaboration from many of the same performance artists we see here: writer/performer Will Bonfiglio, and actors Maggie Conroy, Mitch Eagles, and Carl Overly, Jr.; with equally complex musical and technical support from Joe Taylor and Gabe Taylor. This show is just as bursting with mad tangents, but seems more like a collision of Alice Through the Looking Glass and my old college textbook on Ionesco, running about 109 minutes, without an intermission.
Julia Crump is Snow White, quizzical and quietly comical, with a millennial's sense of hopeless perseverance, while surrounded by images, many of which involve some form of (suggested) sexual predation. It's everything from the back of your mind that never made it to the foreground of this fairy tale, with one nice young lady and seven cartoonish guys all around. The figure in the mirror that haunts her, and the vain queen (Ms. Conroy), and a simpering prince charming (Mr. Bonfiglio), too, is sometimes a deceased or departed dwarf, Hogobut more often than not each character is just taunted by their own enslaving doubt in the glass.
The "dwarves" in this case are full-sized men, played by seven very able and entertaining actors, cut down to Halloween "fun-size" by their own comic anguish as males in the 21st century. When they're not lapsing into the occasional doo-wop chorus, they're plagued by the need for toughness and dominance and pride that's hardwired into nearly all of us. We learn this (at least implicitly) through the many rants and chants that carry them off to work each day, and back again each night. Heigh-ho.
The leader of the dwarves (Mr. Eagles) gets a memorable monolog about the crippling, manly problem of road rage (another form of predation). He'll later be put on trial in a scene reminiscent of a mad tea party, when the problem recurs. The whole thing memorializes Lewis Carroll more than Walt Disney, though there's a long list of other inspirations supplied in the program as well.
Katy Keating is a funny, Strangelovian narrator who also happens to be Snow White's enigmatic mother. But her account of the younger woman's birth grows more gothic and nightmarish, with time and repetition. And all the while Maggie Conroy is slyly hilarious as the nemesis to Snow White: a subtly poisonous, beautiful queen who just needs a little validation.
Snow White by ERA, in a limited engagement at special times at the Grandel Theatre, 3610 Grandel Square. Through August 26, 2017, as part of the St. Lou Fringe Festival. For more information visit www.stlouisfringe.com.