Ice, Ice Baby: Urban Twists on an Old-Fashioned Tale
By LAUREL GRAEBER
Published: December 30, 2005
"Every story lives in the past, the present and the future, all at the same time." This observation, made by a character in Stanton Wood's adaptation of the Hans Christian Andersen tale "The Snow Queen," also applies to the production. Featuring samba rhythms, urban raps, a cross-dressing reindeer and hip-hop-embracing adolescents, this magical "Snow Queen" manages to be both undeniably New York and authentically Andersen.
Presented by Urban Stages, the show retains the core of the original story: Gerda, the heroine, embarks on a selfless quest to find her friend Kay, whose vision is warped when a sliver of the Snow Queen's broken mirror flies into his eye. Turning cold and hostile, he eventually vanishes. But because this is modern Manhattan, Gerda (Susan Heyward) at first responds by spraying the neighborhood with graffiti about her missing friend. When she follows the advice of her grandmother (Ned Massey), she first ends up on the shores of Brazil. A goddess there insists that her grandmother must be a witch, and Gerda replies: "No. She's a cashier at Macy's."
It's to Mr. Wood's credit that the contemporary humor never diminishes the tale's tenderness. He has increased the story's resonance by giving Kay (Utkarsh S. Ambudkar) a concrete reason for his misery (his parents' arguing) and by making the Snow Queen (Lanna Joffrey) a bereaved mother who is less a fairy-tale villain than a haunting symbol of the dangers of grief turned inward.
Directed by Daniella Topol, the production includes ingenious puppets by Eric Wright and ethereal backdrops by Mikiko Suzuki. Children over 5 will enjoy Gerda's icy journey, an odyssey that is ultimately all the warmer for having begun so close to their own homes.
"The Snow Queen," through Jan. 15 at Urban Stages, 259 West 30th Street, Manhattan. Today at 2 and 7 p.m.; tomorrow at 2 p.m. Full schedule: urbanstages.org. Tickets: $30; Smarttix, (212) 868-4444.