Review: The Hunting of the Snark (Strawdog Theatre)

| May 13, 2013 | 1 Comment

Sarah Rose Graber, Michael Mercier, Kaitlyn Majoy and Christian Stokes star in Strawdog Theatre's "The Hunting of the Snark" by Lewis Carroll, directed by Josh Sobel. (photo credit: Kyle Hamman)        
       
The Hunting of the Snark 

Written by Lewis Carroll
Directed by Josh Sobel 
at Strawdog Theatre, 3829 N. Broadway (map)
thru May 28  |  tickets: $15   |  more info
       
Check for half-price tickets 
    
        
        Read entire review
     



     
       

It’s the audience that’s captured in this brilliantly gleeful ‘Hunt’

     

Alexis Randolph, Kaitlyn Majoy, Sarah Rose Graber, Christian Stokes, Michael Mercier, Julia Meese, Emily Gann, Andrew Bailes, Suzanna Ziko, Casey Pilkenton and Errol McLendon star in Strawdog Theatre's "The Hunting of the Snark" by Lewis Carroll, directed by Josh Sobel. (photo credit: Kyle Hamman)

    
Strawdog Theatre presents
    
The Hunting of the Snark

Review by Joy Campbell

“The Hunting of The Snark (An Agony in 8 Fits)” is a nonsense poem written by Lewis Carroll in 1874. Like Carroll’s most famous poem, “Jabberwocky,” “Snark” depicts a quest for a fabulous beast, although its length and many characters make it known more as Carroll’s epic nonsense poem. The plot is this: 10 characters (Banker, Barrister, Baker, Bonnets, Beaver, Butcher, Boots, Bard, Billiard-maker, Broker) are led by the Bellman on a seafaring journey to a new land that appears propitious for hunting the mythical Snark. Their story is told in 8 “fits” or scenes, each focusing on a stage of the story or a character or two. (Think “The Canturbury Tales,” but sillier.) Much has been made by those seeking deep symbolic meaning in the poem, claiming it has social, historical, and/or political undertones; the concept employed by Strawdog and director Josh Sobel is simply to take the poem at face value and leverage its natural potential for imaginative staging.

Sarah Rose Graber, Emily Gann star in Strawdog Theatre's "The Hunting of the Snark" by Lewis Carroll, directed by Josh Sobel. (photo credit: Kyle Hamman)In the hands of this very talented team, this approach shines. Strawdog’s The Hunting of the Snark is a jaw-droppingly creative piece of stagecraft, that most magical kind of theater that envelops us in artifice through a stupefyingly adept use of simple props, physicalization, and pure energy. Each character is unique and superbly played, but it is as an ensemble that this group has you in its hands. From the gleefully raucous opening and breathtaking pantomime of a sea journey to a conjuring of hills, this group is so tight under Aileen McGroddy’s movement design that you wonder whether the casting notice stipulated telepaths only. The intimate performance area makes the fun all the more contagious. Watching the characters swarm, march, explore, scale hills, face Jub-Jub Birds and fight a gloriously conjured Bandersnatch is like watching a drama school for gifted kids at recess.

Touches of music from Styx to Strauss are artfully employed under the musical direction of Leah Tirado, and in “Fit the Second – The Bellman’s Speech”, a brilliant, brief educational film designed by Michelle Underwood accompanies the Bellman’s Ahab-like description of how to identify a Snark. As The Bellman, Michael Mercier knows how to imbue a desk bell with all the emotion of a violin, and narrator Errol McLendon’s rough, smoky voice lends just the right note of gravity to balance the whimsy.

At roughly 50 minutes, the show is not overly long, but its mesmerizing, non-stop adrenaline rush will leave you well satisfied. Be there, or be a boojum.

  
Rating: ★★★½
  
   

The Hunting of the Snark continues through May 28th at Hugen Hall, Strawdog Theatre, 3829 N. Broadway (map), with performances Sundays-Tuesdays at 8pm (May 20-21, 9pm).  Tickets are $15, and are available by phone (866-811-4111) or online through OvationTix.com (check for half-price tickets at Goldstar.com). More information at Strawdog.org(Running time: 50 minutes without intermission)

Suzanna Ziko, Ed Porter, Julia Meese, Alexis Randolph, Andrew Bailes, Casey Pilkenton star in Strawdog Theatre's "The Hunting of the Snark" by Lewis Carroll, directed by Josh Sobel. (photo credit: Kyle Hamman)

Photos by Kyle Hamman


     

artists

cast

Andrew Bailes (Baner), Emily Gann (Barrister), Sarah Rose Graber (Baker), Kaitlyn Majoy (Bonnets), Errol McLendon (Narrator), Julia Meese (Beaver), Michael Mercier (Bellman), Casey Pilkenton (Butcher), Ed Porter (Boots), Alexis Randolph (Bard), Christian Stokes (Billiard-maker), Suzanna Ziko (Broker)

behind the scenes

Josh Sobel (director), Michelle Underwood (projection design), Gregor Mortis (sound design), Nic Diamond (set design), Jeffrey Glass (lighting design), Joanna Melville (costume design), Aileen McGroddy (movement director), Leah Tirado (music director), Kelsey Rhiann Shipley (assistant stage manager), Alex Huntsberger (dramaturg, asst. director), John Henry Roberts (graphic design), Morgan Gire (production manager), Kyle Hamman (photos)

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Category: 2013 Reviews, Hugen Hall, Joy Campbell, New Work, Strawdog Theatre, World Premier

Comments (1)

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  1. M. Vasquez says:

    Bravo!!  The direction, production and staging by cast, and crew of  Chicago’s Strawdog  Theatre in The Hunting of the Snark was stunning!  At first,  I  must admit. . .I was boojum-ed (wait is that a verb?)  into deep introspection to find the meaning into Lewis Carroll ‘s the Hunting of the Snark.      But instead I was whisked into seaward journey.  I was, in  fact on the starboard side that ship tossed by the wicked seas, so brilliantly enacted, and from there  spun into the crew’s quest. . .the Hunt.   I was caught up in the “fits” of all the characters ( the Bs, I call them),  the fright, the darkness and light, and captivated by the cast’s portrayal  of the Bandersnatch.    But then continuing on that balance of the imagined and the real.  The cast rendered adroitly an artistic license to conjure a story that left my anemic thoughts well behind.    Nonsense. . .or is it?   Very entertaining!  It’s worth a second flight to the Windy City to see this energetic interpretation again!! —  M. Vasquez

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