Editor's Note: We are so thrilled to welcome our newest columnist, Tyson Murphy, to Stylewhipped! Tyson's column, "Stage Addict" will bring you theater reviews of everything from big-ticket Broadway shows to intimate off-off-Broadway productions. Read on for his first review of 'The Snow Geese' starring the talented Mary-Louise Parker, and learn more about Tyson here!
With Fall settling in, the breeze getting crisper and the leaves changing pigments, the 'great white way' is opening its doors to a migration of new, theatrical experiences this season. Although there are many plays on the stage this Fall, only two of them are 'new,' original works.
The Manhattan Theater Club (at the Samuel J. Friedman Theater) hosts one of these great new bodies of work, with their production of Sharr White's 'The Snow Geese.' Directed by Daniel Sullivan, this 1914 war drama starts even before the lights go down and the "turn off your cell phone" speech begins. As the audience is getting in their last social media fix and chatting about what they had for brunch, the action has already begun as a lonely maid sets the mood and the table, and right away (if you're paying attention) you can feel the frantic energy.
We have entered the Gaesling home, a rather luxurious cabin in upstate New York during hunting season, where the newly widowed Elizabeth Gaesling (Mary-Louise Parker) is burdened with a reality she had not prepared for in the recent death of her broke husband and the frayed yet seemingly healthy relationships with her two sons, which are in reality unbalanced and distant.
Althoug the pacing is slightly sluggish and clunky throughout the most of the play (more so in the first act) - mainly because the script could be tighter and the dramatic pauses could be not so dramatic - it is almost virtually impossible not to be enthralled by the raw, emotional depth given in the performances of the gifted cast.
Mary-Louise Parker's disconnected-yet-aware Elizabeth Gaesling gives one that anxious-heavy-chest-feeling as she longs for answers she's incapable of conceiving in her journey through grief. She cuts. Like in 'Weeds,' she's capable of commanding the attention needed to allow the audience to love her innocent yet slightly villainous nature.
Adding to the exceptional performances are Brian Cross and Evan Jonigkeit who portray the Gaesling boys. Brian's timidly poised and strong-natured Arnold Gaesling is exceptionally moving. Although not particularly appreciated by his mother or brother, he is responsible for bringing the truth out of the family's troubled past and helps turn things around. Brian's counterpart in this un-brotherly-brotherly-love relationship, Evan (Duncan Gaesling) is quite strong as the beloved, champion brother. His arrogance is crisp yet raw as through his journey of discovering the flaws of his kin he lets the audience feel every beat of his heart in the realization of the painful reality that sometimes we discover that we're just not-so-great.
The cast rounds itself out with also crisp, light-hearted performances by Victoria Clark (Clarissa Hohmann) fresh from Cinderella, and Danny Burnstein (Max Hohmann), who's characters don't so much move the story forward as they focus more on the past, yet their presence alone is comforting and gives the audience an ease to chuckle from the storm of grief surrounding the family. Jessica Love is also a standout the Hungarian maid (Viktoria Gryaznoy) and delivers a poignant and honest performance.
All in all, this particular production could use some tightening and tweaking, but the cast is a strong ensemble and not to be missed. It would also be a shame to miss the incredible rotating set design from Tony award-winning set designer John Lee Beatty.
'The Snow Geese' officially opens October 24th and run through December 15th only! Visit Broadway.com for tickets!