Sept./Oct. 2004

Written by Greg MacArthur Directed by David Oiye

Sept. 21 to Oct. 10, 2004 Buddies in Bad Times Theatre Toronto

Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, now in its 26th Season, continues to present thought-provoking, unsettling and oftimes, highly entertaining theatre. “Snowman” by Greg MacArthur and directed by Artistic Director, David Oiye is a dark odyssey that explores isolation, the search for love and the tenuous line between madness and sanity. At the centre of the piece, is the “Snowman”…not quite your ordinary, seasonal “Bonhomme d’Hiver”…this Snowman is the corpse of a child…a child frozen in time…a child frozen in a glacier where the four complex characters carry out their behaviours. The mystery of the Snowman’s true origins are the propellant that drives this piece, and sets the characters in motion against one another.

from left to right: Paul Dunn as Jude, Philippa Donville as Margorie, Eric Goulem as Denver and Veronika Hurnik as Kim

The four actors that make up the cast of “Snowman” are brilliantly cast, and flawlessly inhabit their characters. There is very little banter between the four (i.e. Denver, Marjorie, Jude and Kim)—rather, the structure of the play is a good deal more like a string of monologues held together by a complicated web of relationships and emotions. This lack of physical connection to the other actors is a difficult kind of thing to pull off, and requires incredible concentration and skill. The amply-talented Erik Goulam warms the heart with his intensely human portrayal of “Denver”. From the moment this Boomer-era, latter day hippie “Everyman” takes the stage in his soiled sweatshirt and mukluks, we know exactly who he is. If we are of a certain age…we’ve all known lots of guys like Denver. He’s more Jerry Garcia then Charles Manson. Denver has existed on the fringes of civilization for most of his adult life. Although we never really are told what has caused his sociopathic, drifting lifestyle, somehow we know that it was something awful…or it could just be a badly protracted adolescence. As events seem to spiral out of control, we cling to this character just to hold on to something familiar.

Portraying “Marjorie”, Denver’s psychotic partner, is the chameleon-like Phillipa Domville. She was alternately chilling and annoying as the mentally ill and highly manipulative Marjorie. As the neurotic, abandoned and sexually confused teenager, “Jude”, Paul Dunn managed to invoke a sort of Norman Bates meets Huck Finn kind of creepiness. As he pads about the stage in his bare feet, professing his love for “Gay German Porn”, he shows us that his character—although in the throes of a complete meltdown—is not without humour. In fact, on several occasions during the play, I laughed out loud…slightly worried that where I laughed revealed more about me, than the play!

Veronika Hurnik was absolutely luminous as the intrepid archaeologist, “Kim”, who gets summoned from her dreary life in Edmonton by Denver’s telegram to “Come and Get It” (get the “Snowman”, that is—or is it?). From the moment Ms. Hurnik takes the stage, she oozes energy, excitement and great honesty. Her sort of take-charge “moxy” is strongly reminiscent of a young Susan Hayward. Although I felt that the final dénouement of her character was a bit under-whelming, and even confusing, the entire performance was strong, assured and a total standout.

The truth is, I have not been able to stop thinking about this play since I saw it two nights ago. The brilliantly designed set—the work of Set and Lighting Designer David Fraser—was convincing as a remote glacier, and at the same time, provided a viable acting space for the characters to pass through their various realities. The lighting design was equally brilliant, creating a sub-zero atmosphere through the use of subtle colorations and intensities.

Award-winning Director, David Oiye, is now in his 6th season as Artistic Director of “Buddies In Bad Times Theatre”, and has brought his skill and expertise to this very interesting project. Through his clever, concise direction, the characters are able to maintain their chemistry, without stepping outside of the playwright’s various writing devices. I was not surprised to read in the programme that David Oiye has a background as a filmmaker, as his use of visual imagery was so exquisite, completely enthralling the audience in the suspension of disbelief.

We welcome your comments and feedback
• • • • • •
Report by Lesley Mitchell-Clarke
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for The Live Music Report

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