Written and Directed by Israel Horovitz
Produced by Barefoot Theatre Company and Compagnia Horovitz-Paciotto
Off Off Broadway, Play
Runs through 11.27.16
La MaMa, 74a East 4th Street
by Lexi Orphanos on 11.17.16
Will Lyman and Sandra Shipley in Man in Snow. Photo by Sam Rudy Media Relations.
BOTTOM LINE: Man in Snow presents a cunning cast ready to prove that when the world swirls in our heads, nature always can—and will—drive us back toward the ground.
At the beginning of the evening, the friendly, humble playwright Israel Horovitz stood at the front doors, looking every guest in the eye and smiling warmly. He delivered the curtain speech, cracked some jokes, and made his way to his seat to take notes and sharpen his play even more. Horovitz told us that it was only a preview, that “anything could happen,” and we should excuse mistakes. What Horovitz did not tell us was that we were about to experience moments of perfect theatre; that we were collectively about to lose ourselves in his writing.
The protagonist, David (Will Lyman), is 65 years old. He has aged but he still has a vivacity about him; he loves his wife, he is fascinated by nature, and for the first time in 46 years, he’s back at Mt. McKinley (now Mt. Denali) to climb to the summit with his very own tour group. David quickly learns that his offstage group of climbers is actually a team of 20 newlywed Japanese couples who are eager to conceive under the Aurora Borealis, making him “a camp counselor with kinky responsibilities." Yearning for privacy from horny honeymooners and a chance to be alone with his restless thoughts, David has his own cabin a distance away from the erotic cluster. This is where we spend most of the play.
As David sits up all night looking at the Northern Lights, practicing his old knack for poetry, and turning over haunting memories of his young son Joey’s death again and again, the evening feels vaguely familiar. Who hasn’t gone through a number of “what ifs” when alone, trying to relax? David consoles himself by frequently calling his wife Franny (Sandra Shipley), an esteemed publisher who clearly loves her husband in the “life-partner” type of way, as opposed to the nagging, uber-feminine stereotype that we so often see in lesser-quality theatre. David's phone calls with Franny and occasionally his daughter Emily and cousin Connie— who is leading his own group closer to the summit—reveal more and more that David is a man at odds with his own existence. He brings everything into question, and spends much of the play contemplating death: where do we go; what happens; who will I see? Most of all: do I deserve to be alive?
Despite the heavy subject matter, Man in Snow has some of the finest acting I’ve seen in a long time. Will Lyman’s impressive resume could speak for itself, but he won’t allow it; Lyman exerts a tangible power over all that he does, always seeking something genuine, and never settling. Matched in this success is Sandra Shipley, who delivers the kind of work that makes her intellect clear; I couldn’t help but trust her with holding my emotions in the palm of her hand. The two are a powerhouse duo to the fullest extent, only supported further by the top-notch ensemble cast: six artists with cutting skill. To watch them work and create within Horovitz’ script is a pleasure.
(Man in Snow plays at La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club, 74a East 4th Street, through November 27, 2016. The running time is 80 minutes with no intermission. Performances are Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30, and Sundays at 2, with no performance on 11/24. Tickets are $25 general admission, $20 for students and seniors, and are available at lamama.org.)
Man in Snow is written and directed by Israel Horovitz. Lighting design by Niluka Hotaling. Assistant lighting by Luke Hotaling. Costume design by Chelsea Kerl. Scenic design by Jenna McFarland Lord. Sound design by David Reiffel. Original music by Julia Kent. Stage management by Marsha Smith. Assistant stage management and wardrobe supervision by Julia Fioravanti. Props design and alternate stage management by Jenna Worden. Publicity by Sam Rudy Media Relations. Curtain speech by Charles Everett. Produced by Barefoot Theatre Company and Campagnia Horovitz-Paciotto.
The cast is Will Lyman, Sandra Shipley, Ron Nakahara, Paul O’Brien, Ashley Risteen, and Francisco Solorzano.