New York City Theater
"The Snow Geese"
Samuel J. Friedman Theater
Eventually, if you hang on into the second act, Sharr White’s new play, “The Snow Geese,” comes into focus. Sort of. But that focus is on money, surely one of the dullest topics for drama unless treated as melodrama (“Aha, me proud beauty, so ye can’t pay the rent?”) or farce (“You mean, the cash has been stashed in her bosom all along?”)
Discovering the truth about the family in question -- that the recently deceased patriarch was, despite outer appearances, broke – is of minor import in a work that touches on so many other more interesting topics, such as impending war and the destruction of nature.
Take this remark: “If we were a little more polite, we wouldn’t have the whole world plunged into war.” Or this Chekhovian thought: “God knows what would happen if we ever stopped talking and actually did something.”
Recently widowed Elizabeth Gaesling, despite the death of her husband, is determined to carry on as well as possible, which means going ahead with the annual hunting party. Although this is a clan used to doing next to nothing, the outside world is knocking at the door and the question becomes should they sell the family lodge?
Elder son Duncan is being deployed overseas. Younger son Arnold insists on opening everyone’s eyes to the family’s pecuniary straits. Elizabeth’s sister, Clarissa, relies on her religion, while her husband, Max, is burdened with a German accent that, in these pre-war times, has forced him to give up his medical practice. Meanwhile, housekeeper-cook Viktorya hovers around the edges, here to remind everyone that their problems are minuscule compared to what’s happening in Europe.
The dynamics are there but even Mary-Louise Parker can’t breathe much life into Elizabeth. Victoria Clark as Clarissa and Danny Burstein as Max fare better. It’s Brian Cross, making his Broadway debut as Arnold who captures the most attention, however, partly because his character is the play‘s linchpin.
Despite a handsome physical production and atmospheric direction by Daniel Sullivan, this is an enervating evening. And note to playwrights everywhere: Don’t write lines like “I am bored beyond belief.” It puts ideas in an audience’s mind.
--David A. Rosenberg
Nov. 11, 2013