Don’t let the title fool you. Greg MacArthur’s Snowman is definitely not the type of fare you might come to expect on Vancouver stages this time of year. Original, edgy and pushing all the right black comedy buttons, consider this Rumble Productions presentation the perfect anti-Christmas play for those, like me, who dread the coming season.
Denver (Derek Metz) and Marjorie (Kathleen Duborg) are recent comers to a small northern Canadian town, eking out an existence by renting videos, and maybe a few video games, to the locals. Befriending Jude (Charlie Gallant) who is still coming to terms with his sudden abandonment by his parents, the threesome develop an unlikely friendship, watching German gay porn and sharing the cocaine that is surprisingly and easily accessible in this remote location.
Spending a great deal of time on the nearby glacial fields building an army of snowmen, Jude discovers a centuries-old body buried just below the surface of the ice pack. Seeing the potential of this unusual discovery, Denver enlists the help of Edmonton anthropologist Kim (Anna Cummer) to investigate the find. Already living on the precipice of their individual and collective slippery slopes, Kim’s arrival becomes that small nudge that pushes them over.
Reprising his award-winning role in the original 2003 world premiere of Snowman, Metz is the perfectly laid-back Denver who exudes a sexual magnetism that contradicts his outward appearance. Everyone wants to have sex with Denver except perhaps the sometimes laconic, sometimes catatonic Marjorie, his long-suffering companion who now only appears to be along for the ride.
Charlie Gallant manages to bring the difficult Jude to life with a particularly wonderful paranoia that percolates throughout as if bracing for a similar betrayal to his parent’s sudden departure. Anna Cummer provides great contrast to the trio on the verge of cabin fever, literally flying in on a wing-and-a-prayer to make her mark but she too soon finds her life unraveling as well.
As Marjorie, Kathleen Duborg was the highlight of this strong ensemble, exuding a heart aching loneliness while fighting her internal demons. She leaves no doubt she will be one of the first to go over that precipice. In one scene she stands in front of the kitchen window cutting into her skin with a paring knife, casually commenting about how a little caulking might be a good idea. In another, she wanders through the woods bringing Jude’s army of snowmen to life as if part of a John Carpenter movie.
In addition to pulling fine performances from this talented cast in MacArthur’s series of quirky, dark and sometimes very funny monologues, director Craig Hall’s vision is fully realized with Yvan Morissette’s magnificent set of birch trees surrounding a central bed on a turntable. John Webber lights it all in beautiful splashes of stark and wintry colours and gives the unseen body under the ice a delightful, almost extraterrestrial, glow. Underscoring the action is Robert Perrault’s wonderfully haunting guitar music, played live amongst Morissette’s forest.
Originally produced eight years ago by Rumble Productions, the show’s director, and the group’s Artistic Producer, Craig Hall has stated he has a particular affinity to Snowman, and has wanted to mount another production for some time. Fortunately for theatergoers like me who missed the 2003 production we’ve been given this second chance and I am grateful.
Snowman should be on everyone’s must-see list. Consider it (yikes!) an early Christmas present.
By Greg MacArthur. Directed by Craig Hall. A Rumble Productions presentation. On stage at the Granville Island Revue Stage through November 19, 2011. Tickets are available online. Visit http://www.rumble.org for more information.