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The Hunting of the Snark

Facing the Stage: A Review



NoDef Theatre Writer Helen Jaksch heads to the CAC for the first of four March installments of the Skin Horse Theatre's stage adaptation of Lewis Carroll's The Hunting of the Snark.

 

A new and original theatrical ditty

Made just for kids in this city

Was presented by Skin Horse Theater and friends.

 

Adapted from The Hunting of the Snark,

A delightful poetical lark

By none other than good ol’ Lewis Carroll.

 

On that day at the CAC

Kids of all ages had a fine reverie

As part of the Children’s Theater Series.

 

And if you missed it, don’t be sad.

There’s still fun to be had

With Snark in the Park and in the Dark all through March!

 

Watching The Hunting of the Snark at Contemporary Arts Center Saturday, I could not help but feel nostalgic for the first show that I had ever seen. It was School House Rock at Socorro High School in El Paso, Texas, and I was all of six years old. It was magical, and it changed my life. Skin Horse Theater’s latest theatrical offering, adapted for the stage from Lewis Carroll's poem The Hunting of the Snark: An Agony in 8 Fits, will make life-long theatre lovers out of kids of all ages.

 

Charming, whimsical, and very funny, Skin Horse Theatre’s Snark delivers all the ingredients of great children’s theatre. Tackling Lewis Carroll’s very word-heavy and nonsensical poem about a band of buddies on the search for a fantastical creature called a Snark, The Skin Horses do it without either pandering to their young audiences or talking down to them. Like most shows I see, it could have used another week or two of rehearsal, but, all in all, it hits the sweet spot.


And if you asked any of those awe-struck and excited children after the show, they did not notice those few moments when it got a little sloppy. They thought it was perfect and loved every minute.

 

The Hunting of the Snark
Where: NOMA Sculpture Garden, City Park and Backyard Ballroom 
When: March 3, 10, 17, 3 p.m. at NOMA, 10 p.m. at Backyard Ballroom
Tickets: Free at NOMA, $5 at Backyard Ballroom

 

Utilizing neither sets nor props, Snark is only body, voice, and costumes. It is a lovely combination of the tripping, dipping, looping words of Carroll and Philip Berezney’s colorful costumes. The costumes reminded me of children pulling whatever they could find from their closets: throwing everything on at once and putting on a play for their teddy bears or their mother’s guests. It was easy to forgive the rough execution when the essence was so right. Not to mention that they pay homage to the incredible drawings by Henry Holiday that accompany Carroll’s text. Some of my favorite fabric-based flairs were Kyle Williams’ Beaver costume and the oodles of coats that made the very tiny Cecile Monteyne’s Baker look like a giant berry.

 

Director Veronica Hunsinger-Loe went back to the basics of the body as the core of storytelling in this adventure. Those bodies of the ensemble create everything from the bow of a ship to the rocky face of an island to trees in a spooky forest. It all challenges us to indulge in our imaginations. Hunsinger-Loe does not let her ensemble shy away from the poem’s dark themes and somewhat unhappy ending, but she also finds the humor and the lightness. There are wonderful reminders in the stage choreography, such as in the Barrister’s dream or the ensemble’s creation of the terrifying Bandersnatch, that you do not need a big budget to create moments of fright and wonder. The Hunting of the Snark is one of the first pieces of children’s theatre that I have seen in a long time that does not forget that it is theatre.

 

The Snark Crew is a solid ensemble. Berezney, Williams, Monteyne, Nat Kusinitz, Matt Standley, Evan Spigelman, and Glenna Broderick brought high energy and a generosity of spirit that was wonderful to be a part of. There were a few performances, however, that shined extra brightly on that cloudy afternoon. Kusinitz played the Bellman, the leader of the Snark-hunting voyage. Sporting a cloth beard and a striped shirt, Kusinitz expertly led the ensemble with his precise physicality and abundance of enthusiasm. Monteyne brought the house down with her Victorian rap, and Standley’s signature movement and catch phrase as the Butcher was funny every single time he did it. But the comedienne that stole the show was Williams as the Beaver. A master of committing to big choices and funny voices, Williams was able to walk that fine line of bold choices without stepping on her fellow performers’ toes. She loves to mug almost as much as we love watching. Williams nonetheless knows when to let others have their moment. She is the sticky, goofy glue that brings Carroll’s poem to life with wit, heart, and comedy to spare.
 

 

Want to be a part of the hunt? Skin Horse Theater is taking Snark on the road in March. See it in the park at the NOMA Sculpture Garden at 3:00pm and in the dark (for grown-up kids) at the Backyard Ballroom at 10:00pm March 3rd, 10th, and 17th.

They threatened its life with

They threatened its life with a railroad share!

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Contributors

Renard Boissiere, Evan Z.E. Hammond, Naimonu James, Wilson Koewing, J.A. Lloyd, Nina Luckman, Dead Huey Long, Alexis Manrodt, Joseph Santiago, Andrew Smith, Cynthia Via, Austin Yde

Photographers


Art Director

Michael Weber, B.A.

Editor


Listings Editor

Linzi Falk

Editor Emeritus

Alexis Manrodt


B. E. Mintz


Stephen Babcock

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