James Ryan Gobuty
As I was walking through the alley to get to The Box theatre I was a little bit giddy; I always get excited by theatre spaces that are less than conventional. The space is small and intimate, the perfect setting for a one-person show, wherein the audience can never quite comfortably remove themselves from the performance. Alas, being so up close and personal also gives one a greater purview into the cracks and seams of a performance; such was the case of Snow Bride.
Unusually, Snow Bride had a comedian, Rachelle Elie, as the opening act of the evening – a warm-up, if you will. Elie’s routine was quite funny, with a frenetic energy that seemed to be endless. She teased the audience for their oh-so theatrical “listening skills”, and cleverly unraveled some excellent theatre humour, complete with multiple quick costume changes. Though I enjoyed Rachelle Elie’s performance very much, I found that it clashed with the tone of the play that followed, and still can’t quite understand why these two rather disparate acts were brought together.
About twenty minutes into the evening, Snow Bride begins: a play written by David James Brock and directed by Paul Hutcheson. Snow Bride is a one-woman show focusing on Helena (Katie Hood) on the night of her bridal shower that nobody arrives to. Throughout the show, Helena’s checkered past is revealed through monologues, while she does copious amounts of cocaine. The play reveals the cold loneliness of drug addiction and how it can come to replace all the people in one’s life.
Though I found that the play had good bones – a good script, a fine performer, and an intimate space – it was quite inconsistent and never quite delivered. For instance, in the first half of the play, Helena would perform a monologue, and whenever she would lean in to do a line of cocaine, there would be a blackout and she would reset for the next monologue. I found this method to be extremely effective as it created a tight, staccato feel to the monologues and mirrored the dynamism of stimulant addiction. For some reason, this effect stopped being used in the middle of the show – an inconsistency that, in contrast, made the remainder of the show seem particularly long and drawn out. This wasn’t helped by the character of Helena, either.
In the program playwright David James Brock writes that he “forgot how hard it was to spend time with Helena” – a sentiment I can relate to. Helena is an extremely disagreeable character, purposefully so. The show attempts to recreate the cringe-causing difficulty of spending a long period of time listening to an addict rant – a fine theatrical venture. Nevertheless, I felt as though there was something disingenuous about the character; she was more of a caricature of an addict than an authentic representation. Much of this was mitigated by the lighting effect mentioned above, but became more pronounced as the play went on. This is not to say that the show doesn’t have its strong moments, but rather that it seemed to miss out on a lot of the potential that it had.
Snow Bride is playing at The Box, 89 Niagara Street, Toronto. It is running until May 18. Tickets are $20 or $15 for students and arts-workers and pay-what-you-can for Sunday matinees. Tickets can be purchased online at brownpapertickets.com/event/621926, by phone at 416-949-9252, or in person.