Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Strange Snow"

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note: entire contents copyright 2002 by Beverly Creasey

Hovey's Haunting
"Strange Snow"

Reviewed by Beverly Creasey

Some of my favorite productions of the last few years have been at the Hovey Players' Abbott Memorial Theatre in Waltham: "Dealer's Choice" "Glengary Glen Ross" "Communicating Doors". Hovey manages to produce provocative scripts and to stage quality productions --- on a shoestring --- which look like a million bucks --- thanks to the crack prod. team of John MacKenzie and Michele Boll.

Now MacKenzie is directing Stephen Metcalfe's haunting "Strange Snow" (which you may have seen as a film called "Jackknife" starring Robert DeNiro and Ed Harris.) Jackknife is the nickname of a larger-than-life Viet Nam vet who throws caution to the winds in everything he does --- as if he has to devour life in order to savor it. He's wrecked more than a few eighteen-wheelers so he's given up hauling lodes and now he re[pairs cars. In "Strange Snow" her tries his hand at repairing a couple of dented human beings.

One is a fellow vet who drowns his sorrows in alcohol -- the other is that man's sister, who's long ago given up on excitement and romance. MacKenzie's production "roars like a PT Boat" to quote the ex-trucker... and sails "smooth as glass." Although the play is shaped by the Viet Nam war, it's only a backdrop for a sweet and unlikely romance between the vet and the proper schoolteacher.

Metcalfe's language is charming, leaving the tough talking vet to sing the praises of "breakfast beer"...such a whimsical suggestion that the schoolteacher is willing to partake, much to her brother's surprise.

Rocco Sperazzo makes Jackknife refreshingly brash, even innocent in his enthusiasm for life. Kate Tonner makes the "woman of a certain age" delightfully reticent, as if they were teenagers again. Sperazzo's relentless good nature as the vet is what propels the story, despite the weight of Wayne Vargas' dark characterization as the alcoholic. He's almost too mean-spirited to like, and you wonder why Jackknife even tries. (I shouldn't compare it to the film, I know...but Ed Harris got to the brain of the brother's character, something Vargas leaves out altogether ... and it effects the balance of the piece.)

No matter because MacKenzie's production is first rate, from the music (Marvin Gaye, CCR) to the stunning set --- with extraordinary tromp l'oeil by Boll. If you haven't experienced Hovey Players, make the trip. I'm adding "Strange Snow" to my list of favorites.

"Strange Snow" (15 - 30 March)
Abbott Memorial Theater, WALTHAM, MA
(781) 893-9171

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide