“The Snow Queen” Show Delivers Warmth by Andrea Santo Felcone

There’s something beautiful about leaning into things, rather than resisting them. This winter has been bitterly cold. The type of weather that is likely to keep a person inside, hibernating. But, resist those urges–lean into winter–and treat yourself and your family to Blessed Unrest’s “The Snow Queen” at the New Ohio Theatre, in New York City.

The Snow Queen

Photo Credit: (c) Maria Baranova. Todd Grace and Tatyana Kot

Written by Matt Opatrny, directed by Jessica Burr, and developed by Blessed Unrest in a year-long New Victory LabWorks residency, “The Snow Queen” will warm you with its creativity and heart. Adapted from the original fairy tale of the same name, written by Hans Christian Andersen, Blessed Unrest’s “The Snow Queen” is performed by a small, highly-skilled ensemble. Most cast members serve more than one role, a few sing (Celli Pitt/“Grandma” has an amazing voice), and there is an element of interpretive dance throughout. There is no shortage of talent in this production.   

The most popular (loosely based) adaptation of “The Snow Queen” (in recent memory) was Disney’s movie, “Frozen”. Blessed Unrest’s “The Snow Queen” and Disney’s “Frozen” are very different, although they do share one main thread: a central message of strong female power. Gerda, the female protagonist, played endearingly by Nancy McArthur, (in her debut with Blessed Unrest) is a wonder and one to watch. Her earnest determination stays with you long after the show ends.

In this version, Gerda and Kay (the talented Todd Grace) are two precocious children who share an extremely close friendship; they are “two mittens on a string,” “two peas in a pod,” and share a friendship as rare as a snowflake. Kay lives with his Grandma (Celli Pitt) and likes to study the pattern and geometry of things; he is trying to crack the code of nature’s roses and snowflakes. Gerda lives in the house next door, but she seems to belong to herself alone; she seems to have no guardian. The children play near their rooftop gardens, sharing thoughts and the shared language of their unique friendship.

Gerda matches Kay’s abilities to see patterns, with her ability to communicate with nature; she hears flowers and can speak with birds. They reason that if bees have queens, snowflakes should to … a thought that leads Kay to search the sky only to get pierced in his eye and his heart by some enchanted glass—the evil work of The Snow Queen. He no longer sees beauty in things, but instead finds everything and everyone—including his beloved Gerda—ugly. Kay runs off to be with The Snow Queen and is lost to Gerda and his Grandma. (This “running off” is handled in a physical way, as Todd Grace expressively dances in the background throughout much of the remaining performance.)

Gerda is terrified that Kay has drowned in the river. She decides she is going in search of Kay—no matter what challenges or obstacles are placed in her path. The staging and lighting here are clever as Gerda “swims” across the river, and then encounters several characters that aim to help her. A pair of crows, played by Rich Brown and Celli Pitt, is humorous and entertaining. This scene contains a section of dialogue reminiscent of the Abbott and Costello “Who’s on First?” routine, as Kay’s name is mistaken for the familiar ‘kay, as in “Okay”. (For me this was clever, but dragged out a bit too long.) Eventually Gerda is led to Ba, a reindeer, (played brilliantly by Rich Brown and Joshua Wynter–together) who helps Gerda on her journey. (The scenes with Gerda riding “atop” the reindeer are cleverly choreographed.) It’s made clear, even with the help she receives, that Gerda’s final journey is her own, and she must overcome obstacles using her own intuition and wits.

Kay, Gerda, and Grandma are eventually reunited, due to Gerda’s tenacity. Although Gerda and Kay have not lost the intense language of their friendship, their experiences out in the world have transformed them, in a bittersweet way. The final scene had Gerda wiping tears from her eyes. (McArthur’s tears appeared endearingly real as if she were caught up in the emotion of the piece.)   

The Snow Queen

Photo Credit (c) Maria Baranova. Celli Pitt, Nancy McArthur, Joshua Wynter, and Rich Brown

As if to mirror the ensemble, a few key props serve multiple functions—so much is achieved by a hanging swathe of white cloth, a stool, a ladder. (For example, the ladder tipped to its side became a “boat”). The lighting was fascinating–shadows on the floor were created to represent Gerda and Kay’s “rooftops” as Gerda often jumped the divide in the shadows to cross back to her own house. Perhaps the most elaborate creation on stage was the costume of The Snow Queen (Tatyana Kot—a beautiful dancer). And although the costume appeared luxurious, that too, seemed crafted from simple materials. The bare-bones quality of the production worked well and reinforced the stark of winter and the chill of The Snow Queen herself.

Blessed Unrest’s “The Snow Queen” is ideal for audiences ages 7 and up (there is one fight scene with prop knives—which may not be suitable for very young children). Our audience was predominantly comprised of girls—maybe because “The Snow Queen” has been linked to the princesses from Disney’s “Frozen”? However, a show about strong female characters should be enjoyed by all: bring your sons, family, and friends. Blessed Unrest’s “The Snow Queen” will melt the harshness of winter and warm your hearts.  

Written by Matt Opatrny: Directed by Jessica Burr: Choreography by the company: Costume Design: Sydney Maresca; Lighting: Jay Ryan; Sound: Beth Lake; Set Design: Sam Vawter.   

The show runs through Sunday, January 14 at the New Ohio Theatre, 154 Christopher Street, between Greenwich and Washington Streets, New York City. Running Time: 80 minutes, no intermission.

Tickets ($25.00) can be purchased through OvationTix website: https://web.ovationtix.com/trs/pr/982558 or by calling: 866-811-4111.

For future productions and more information: www.BlessedUnrest.org.

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