The Snowflake Factory
Northwest Film Forum
Through Dec 23.
If The Chronicles of Narnia are a sentimental education for Christian children, The Snowflake Factory is propaganda for C. S. Lewis's cultural counterpoint: Marxism. The children's play begins with Mr. Slurch—the cruel, top-hatted owner of the Factory of Cold—terrorizing his cowed and goofy (but lovable) workers.
Slurch's R&D department accidentally invents the snowflake when one of the researchers cries, producing a lacy, frozen tear. Realizing that snow is "the next big thing," the wicked boss tortures his workers so they will weep blizzards he can sell. (The alienation of labor is vintage Marx, but this commodification of affect shows familiarity with more contemporary theory.) At the moment of their direst exploitation, the proles decide they don't need a boss; Mr. Slurch disappears from the stage as mysteriously as the ruling class in Das Kapital's description of the Revolution.
Conceived by, directed by, and starring Jonah Von Spreecken as Mr. Slurch, Factory drifts between childlike and childish. The workers' excessive cooing and relentless repetition are patronizing, even for a kids' show, but there are some delights: icy violin music, human cogs gyrating on the factory floor, and the finale, which sends the snowflakes we made as pre-show entertainment dancing over our heads. (And you really should see Von Spreecken's Dickensian-villain suit, with its top hat and frock coat, which was tailor-made in Dubai. If I had clothes like that, I'd never take them off, come coitus or karate.)
Quibbles aside, The Snowflake Factory is a promising first effort, and I hope Von Spreecken and company develop the tale further. A more substantial version would make a great annual Marxist fable. BRENDAN KILEY
Stones in His Pockets
Capitol Hill Arts Center
Through March 11.
The two-man show Stones in His Pockets is like a well-made sandwich—warm, charming, and full of cheese. A self-consciously "Irish" play performed in a bar, it also oozes pathos, fatalistic humor, and goes down well with a glass of beer. There's nothing challenging about its predictable clichés, but watching actors Tim Hyland and Darragh Kennan fall in and out of over a dozen characters—from a Hollywood diva to an old town drunk—is a pleasure.
The Hollywood hordes descend on a small, picturesque village to film The Quiet Valley, but the locals are ambivalent about the cinematic hoopla—the same village was used to film The Quiet Man in 1952. The extras love the money, the free grub, and the chance to fantasize about stardom, but if the first film left old wounds (including a young waster ruined by broken Hollywood dreams), the second rips at the scabs.
The play belongs to the extras as they joke, mutter, and bear the insults of arrogant Americans (and a hilariously menacing Scots bodyguard). The production, directed by the Rep's Jerry Manning, belongs to the hardworking Hyland and Kennan, who seem to be having a ball—despite the script's shortcomings, the actors' playfulness keeps Stones buoyant. BRENDAN KILEY
Seattle Children's Theatre
Through February 4.
I am the hugest sucker when it comes to magical stuff. Tell me it's set in the "Seven Kingdoms" in a land beyond the sky, throw a dragon and some wishes and a magic forest in there, and I'm all over that shit.
That said, SCT's Sleeping Beauty, an adaptation by Welsh playwright Charles Way, left me only half charmed. Two witch sisters, Branwen (nice) and Modron (naughty), live in a magic wood. Branwen gets her hands on a baby—thanks to some fairy-tale prom mom—and regifts it to a childless king and queen. When Modron isn't even invited to the baptism (rude!), she curses the girl, Briar Rose, to prick her finger on a spindle and die. Branwen downgrades the curse from "die" to "sleep for 100 years and then die" (thanks). When the deadly finger-pricking rolls around at last, the disheveled, "utterly useless" Prince Owain (MJ Sieber) has to battle his way to the castle to save Briar Rose.
Sleeping Beauty's set is lovely, and the costumes, though fairly standard, are lush and charming. The giant, riddling spider king—a delightfully creepy bit of puppetry—drove the kids totally bonkers. The problem lies in the characters. Briar Rose (Khanh Doan) is bratty and kind of mean (with a little crazy in her eye), and Branwen (Julie Briskman) is a patronizing goody-two-shoes. Modron (Anne Allgood) seems not so much evil as bullied by her stupid cupcake of a sister. Also, it's a musical, but the songs are unmemorable. (Most of them weren't even real songs—characters would just sing occasional lines of narration or dialogue. It was weird.)
But don't miss the post-show Q&A, when the kids geek out and ask tough "questions" like, "When the lights came on, it was very beautiful." It's basically the cutest thing ever. If you're looking for some magical holiday escapism (and I certainly am), Sleeping Beauty is a safe bet. Hooray for magic! LINDY WEST