The weather outside isn’t yet frightful, but Synetic Theater’s debut production of “The Snow Queen” creates a delightful winter wonderland inside. This innovative outfit’s new show is a charming, visually splendid storybook that will appeal to children and parents alike.
Based on the Hans Christian Andersen story, the movement-based production is directed by company member Ryan Sellers and adapted by Emily Whitworth. The production unfolds like discrete chapters in a book, beginning with the Snow Queen (Acacia Danielson) herself. We first see her alone, and lonely – she appears imprisoned, and once free, attempts to create her own companions, only to find them lifeless. Spying two children, Kai (Joshua Cole Lucas) and Gerda (Moira Todd), she concocts a cruel plan to kidnap Kai for company.
Acacia Danielson is superb as the titular character. Given that this is one of Synetic’s wordless productions, Danielson communicates the Queen’s aristocratic hauteur through a perfectly calibrated sneer and a commanding physical presence. Her dress and crown, baroque masterpieces created by Alexa Dulmstra, only amplify her physical presence, and her icy power is nicely realized through Thomas Sowers’ crackling sound design.
The Queen’s foil is Gerda, the warm-hearted friend of Kai, who journeys to rescue him when she discovers he’s missing. Like her literary sisters, Alice in Wonderland and Dorothy in Oz, Gerda makes her way through strange and surprising new lands, greeting new people. Moira Todd’s open-faced portrayal of the young character imbues Gerda with a sense of earnest wonder.
… a charming, visually splendid storybook.
Synetic’s dynamic set and prop design bring to life the sequence of worlds Gerda visits. In a particularly charming interlude, Gerda greets a field full of flowers—members of ensemble twirling decorated umbrellas—which dance and quiver like sea anemones.
“Snow Queen”‘s visual stylings and clever choreography (courtesy of Kelly King) will make the straightforward story accessible to children. Venturing further towards the Snow Queen’s lair, Gerda’s encounter with a band of robbers, who flit and hide behind the pillars of Phil Charlwood’s set, provides some physical comedy that delighted the younger audience members at my performance, as did a growling match between a robber and their leader (Maria Simpkins, very fun).
While other similar stories might emphasize how Gerda grows and learns, Synetic’s telling is refreshing in that it treats Gerda’s warmth as a heroic quality and one that enriches everyone she meets. Though both characters seek companionship, the story contrasts Gerda’s interest in the community, with people or nature, with the Queen’s need for control.
Perfectly timed for younger attention spans, the adventure is concluded before you know it. The production’s insistence on the importance of hope and compassion make it a perfect show for this holiday season.
Running Time: Approximately 1 hour.
Advisory: The show uses fog.
“The Snow Queen” runs through Dec. 29 at Synetic Theater. For tickets or more information, click here.