Over the years, around the holiday time, Victory Gardens Theatre has been presenting a version of “The Snow Queen” that is a folk story based n the classic by Hans Christian Anderson. Now, newcomer, Filament Theatre in their new home ( which is starting to look great) in Portage Park, is bringing us a new version ( adaptation by Tyler J. Monroe) that is perfect for audiences of all ages.
What this young and imaginative company has done is created a wonderful story with puppetry (Jeff Semmerling) that appeals to the kids as well as the adults ( who bring the kids) as they tell the story of two young people, a boy , Kai ( a marvelous character developed by Christian Libonati) and a girl, Gerda ( deftly handled by Mara Dale) who are separated by magic and then by even greater magic ( the magic of friendship, love and truth) find each other once again, and despite all odds, and obstacles find that true honesty with those we love is the greatest gift of all.
This is a one hour and ten minute production ( no intermission) filled with imaginative direction ( Allegara Libonati) and some unusual movement/choreography ( Nate Drackett) that truly works . In articular, watching the kids in the almost full house, I saw their concentration as they saw , almost a combination Lookingglass/Cirque production. Remember, this is a new company, with many young performers, but they know what makes an audience tick, which means that the people who attend a Filament production will certainly get their money’s worth.
The new theater, located at 4041 N. Milwaukee Avenue was, in my days, a “Three Sisters” Women’s store and now, besides the theater , will be an artsy place in Portage Park. When you enter the theater for this production, you walk through an area where it appears that snow is falling ( I am not so sure, we need any more snow), but it has a nice effect. The theater is a large space with seating set up on three sides and there are tables and chairs along the sides ( very cabaret style) and the actors/performers work with those who are seated in these seats , even before the show begins. Understand that if you take one of these seats, you could very well be in the show!
Hot Chocolate is served before the show ( thanks to City News Cafe, around the corner) and we, the audience get to meet the performers. There is music in the show ( not to be confused with the Michael Smith version at Victory Gardens), but music that helps the story move along. It is the acting, the direction and the puppetry that makes this short and sweet story come alive on the stage and in our hearts.
If you are unfamiliar with the Hans Christian Andersen “Fairy Tale”, it is a story about true friendship, perhaps, even love between a boy and a girl. The boy is hit with two shards of a magic mirror, owned the infamous “Snow Queen” who has the power to produce chilling weather ( almost like that we are having this winter in Chicago) and if she does not get her way, could cause someone to turn to ice and then explode.. In Andersen’s tale, we learn that we can persevere if we forget about self and worry about others, and that if we care about others, it is our duty to protect them from harm and search for them in order to save them from fates that they cannot control. A wonderful story- a wonderful message presented to us by a newly formed wonderful theater company.
In addition to the aforementioned Mr. Libonati and Ms Dale, the cast is made up of the following:
Andrew marchetti , Molly Bunder, Lindsey Dorcus ( who is marvelous as “The Snow Queen” in addition to others) and Ryan Westwood. These six performers make you see a lot of characters and one might think that the cast was made up of a greater number of actors. They do it all- piano and guitar for the music as well as changing characters throughout the production ( with the exception of Gerda). There is magic in Portage Park, on the stage of this new troupe, prepared to bring live theater to the Northwest side of Chicago.
This production will have a short run, continuing through February 9th with performances as follows:
Fridays at 7:30 p.m.
Sundays at 3 p.m.
On the 9th, there will be an added 5 p.m. performance.
Tickets are $20 which is a bargain for theater of this quality. Let’s face it, this is live theater for a bit more than a movie.
To order your seats, call 773-270-1660 or visit www.filamenttheatre.org
The theater is located at 4041 N. Milwaukee Avenue ( six corners) and there is street parking ( some metered, some not) as well as the city lot just one block west of the theater.
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and click at “The Snow Queen”. While this may be considered a Children’s Theater Production, I think it is the perfect family fare. Young and old, with the puppets and the imagery they use, you will be entertained and learn a lesson.!