a’s Snowshow, we weren’t surprised it was pigeonholed as another family show for kids — something that brings out the kid in every adult, but more importantly, a distraction over the holidays. While it may be the perfect choice for a holiday show (as opposed to this one), not once did it occur to us that it was but a “handmade diversion” to keep transfixed kids at bay. It’s easy to peg it as such, but one shouldn’t underestimate the artistic and theatrical value of the production.
The brainchild of Russian clown, Slava Polunin, Snowshow displays a brand of pantomime that he calls “Idiotic Expressionism.” When Yellow, played that night by Derek Scott, walked on stage holding a noose, we were ready for a show as melancholy as his stage makeup. Then gangly Ivan Polunin entered, tugging on the other end of the noose, recalling a moment in Beckett’s Waiting for Godot when Estragon and Vladimir argue over who should hang themselves first. What 8-year-old — outside of a young Margot Tenenbaum — would get that Existential reference?
Part of Snowshow’s success with the adult crowd can be attributed to its inventive physical engagement with the audience. Yellow and his green cohorts draw you in with their Kabuki-esque movements in delayed pace and expert mime; every jaw in the audience dropped when Yellow fell in love with a coat rack and cuddled his own arm. Meanwhile, the storm raged, not just on stage but in the seats, as we were pummeled by snow, bubbles, and enormous gusts of wind. The visceral engagement became sublime in the final moments of the show, when we were blasted out of a sleepy trance by wind, snow, and a brilliant light illuminating Yellow.
At times, observing the audience was part of the entertainment. Everyone seemed so disoriented as to lose all inhibitions. Every 15 minutes the octogenarian from Staten Island behind us would shout “Oh my God,” and the dude with a curly mohawk a few seats down would double over and laugh uncontrollably — and he wasn’t the only one with a case of the grown-up giggles. We couldn’t help but lose control ourselves, flailing arms and ducking out of the way of soapy bubbles, drops of water, and the occasional clown about to topple off the stage on our heads.
We’re pretty certain you’ll never forget the Snowshow, especially when you’re still finding bits of white confetti in your handbag and beneath your pillow weeks later. Just because a show is pegged to the holidays, doesn’t mean it’s just for kids.