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The Snow Geese

I’m not sure that audiences need to have a classical theatre background to enjoy Sharr White’s brilliant The Snow Geese, but it does enhance the experience to know that White’s view of America in 1917 and Chekhov’s vision of crumbling decadence in pre-revolutionary Russia have much in common.

In White’s play, the Gaesling family exemplifies old traditions that must give way to the new. Elizabeth (Melissa Chalsma), recently widowed, plans a yearly shooting weekend at the family’s country lodge for the pampered Duncan (Evan Lewis Smith) before he ships over to the Great War.  His practical brother Arnold (Nikhil Pai), by contrast, holds conflicting emotions about his brother’s elite education and flamboyant life style.  Prejudice against Germans necessitates their sheltering Aunt Clarissa (Bernadette Sullivan) and her German husband, Max (Bruce Katzman), while their pretty immigrant maid, Viktorya (Kalean Ung), had a patrician upbringing that did not prepare her for a servant’s life.  These richly drawn characters converge in a foreshadowing of the 20th century’s upcoming travails as they learn that their father, dear departed Teddy (Faqir Hassan seen in flashbacks), has left them bankrupt.

Under David Melville’s careful direction, the inhabitants must face their loss of security, not to mention status, and in the process, expose deep fissures in each of their personalities. Beginning with mercurial Melissa Chalsma, the excellent cast assembled for White’s meaningful play well orchestrates The Snow Geese’s given circumstances.  Although simply presented, authentic costuming by Ruoxuan Li, atmospheric lighting by Bosco Flannagan and appropriate sound created by director David Melville all lend an air of reality to the barn-like, dimensional stage.

Here and there, much to this aficionado’s delight, White mimics key moments or significant dialogue from Chekhov’s The Seagull that serve to deepen and reinforce the psychological truths that echo down from that time.  Ultimately, in the seemingly irreversible pattern caused by war, displacement, immigration, rejection and finally, assimilation, the larger canvas human folly pictured here leaves much for us to ponder.

PHOTO BY Grettel Cortes: Arnold ((Nikhil Pai) & Duncan (Evan Lewis Smith) watch geese overhead.  

The Snow Geese performs Thursday through Saturday at 7:30 P.M.; Sunday at 2:00 P.M. through April 9, 2017 at the Independent Shakespeare Co. Studio, 3191 Casitas Ave., Los Angeles 90039. Tickets are $20.00 to 35.00 with a limited number of free tickets for each performance.  Phone (818) 710-6306 or