Body parts and frozen fantasies are all the rage in Toronto just now. With Anais Granofsky’s wonderfully eerie The Limb Salesman (cross-reference below) having had its première at the Toronto International Film Festival a week ago, the timing for the remount of Greg MacArthur’s Snowman couldn't have been better if it was planned.
Director David Oiye has crafted together a production that lets the script do the talking, placing his four charges on a sparse, blue-white set (expertly executed and lit by David Fraser) that personifies the barren landscape and wide open spaces that are Canada’s north.
With minimal direct interaction amongst the cast and props that are imagined but not seen, the overall result brings to mind a similarly effective approach to a “wordy” piece, last season’s Equity Showcase Theatre's production of Arthur Miller’s After the Fall (cross-reference below).
The notion of “my face in the window” applies to the four characters as they stand in their frames, letting the audience peer into their lives. Lives filled with loneliness, lines of coke and large helpings of German porn—who could ask for anything more? The discovery of a prehistoric (hysteric?) being, gradually thawing out of his permafrost immortality is as rich in its metaphor as its rotted limbs are dank.
That sensational find brings a government archaeologist, Kim (Phillipa Domville who tosses her lines off with a heady combination of fun and sizzle) to the edge-of-the-glacier community to investigate. There she sees Denver (Eric Goulem, clearly at home playing both sides of the relationship fence) and his long-suffering partner Marjorie (Veronika Hurnik, generally convincing but a couple of nights away from unerring flow), finding parts of themselves whither away even as the long-dead “Snowman” is revealed, nearly one digit at a time.
The catalyst in this merry band of “dysfunctionals” is Jude (Paul Dunn whose rhythm, timing and body language are a constant delight). The somewhat perplexed gay teen soon settles into the group, bedding Denver more as a matter of course than “recruitment to our side,” revelling in smut (can't get more Canadian than that) and piecing together his silent Iceman, even as the incredible discovery allows all concerned to thaw out of their inner chills.
Despite a preponderance of “stand and deliver,” MacArthur and Oiye manage to explore the inner psyche of human frailty with insight and sensitivity, bringing home the truth that “nothing lives in ice” in a way that will resonate with anyone who’s ever been given the cold shoulder. JWR