NOTE: Article may contain spoilers
On what would have been Donald Barthelme’s 86th birthday, Catastrophic Theater played host to the world premiere of his novella “Snow White’s” adaptation to the stage. Director Greg Dean said that this was a passion project of his. Not only did he finish the script that Barthelme started, something he had been trying to do for twenty year, but he was able to bring a new audience to Don B.’s writings.
I was unable to make the premiere on April 7th. But I had high expectations going into the Saturday night showing. I was curious if the humor of Barthelme’s writing would be palpable, this was coming from the same man who wrote a story about a billionaire that buys Galveston. But I also wanted to see what changes had been made to the classic fairy tale.
The audience and I were laughing from the very first scene. In a combination of physical and verbal humor, the play jumps around from scene to scene in an off the wall sort of manner. One moment Snow White is quoting poetry and the next the seven middle aged men she lives with are describing the various Chinese baby foods they produce.
A favorite scene of mine is when the dwarves recreate Snow White’s earning of multiple diplomas. They rush to hand her the many folds of paper as she reads off the list. A list so long that the narrator abandons the scene altogether.
School of Theater and Dance senior Coralee Young is great as Snow White. After being found by the dwarves in a forest and brought home, she remains out of a lack of imagination for anything better. Wearing military pants and a white undershirt, she dreams of a prince that will take her away, a list of candidates that include Prince Albert and Prince Paul the DJ. In the meantime she writes poetry and controls the lives of the dwarves due to their sexual desires for her.
Jeff Miller is hilarious as Hogo de Bergerac. Hogo is loathsome and vile, saying what he wants and not caring what other people think. Walking around in a leather jacket and a monocle, Hogo lives by Freud’s teachings and says something outrageous every time he is on stage.
The conflict of the story comes late when he falls in love with Snow White, though she rejects him. His “sleepie” Jane grows angry and brews a poisoned Gibson for her. However it is the princely figure of Paul, an overweight priest, who drinks it to save Snow White. He dies and stays dead.
The plot of the play does suffer from the change in setting. I was unable to follow long pieces of speech where the dwarves turn on their leader Bill. A part of this may have been due to Barthelme’s style of writing. But despite my confusion in some places, any faults in plot was made up for in comedic situations. This was one of my most enjoyable theater experiences in a while.
My rating: 4/5
Snow White will be performing at Catastrophic Theatre until May 6.