Thoughtful, thrilling, and achingly human world premiere
|Jackalope Theatre presents|
Review by Lauren Whalen
Reading The Snare press release, and looking at its poster, I walked in expecting a B-thriller in live theater form. (As I love those movies, I was excited by the prospect.) Instead, I found a thoughtful, funny, achingly human play about the meaning of faith and the honoring of uncertainty. Samantha Beach’s world premiere depicts the inner world of a young teenage girl with brutal accuracy, and though the play does have its share of dark, frightening moments, they are couched in a world so truthful, the effect is breathtaking. Beautifully written, directed and acted, The Snare is both thoughtful and thrilling, a tour de force for Jackalope Theatre Company.
So many times, teenage girls are depicted as caricatures: either depressed Goths intent on self-harm, or ditsy blatherers fixated on boys, clothes and texting. Ruth (Caroline Heffernan) is neither of these. Instead, she’s a real person. Replace Ruth’s love of basketball with mine of theater, and take away the social media, and she could have been me at thirteen or fourteen. Ruth desperately wants to be captain of her basketball team, she idolizes babysitter and family friend Sloane (Paloma Nozicka), and she is excited to partner with a cute classmate on a class project. Her parents are attentive and caring, and even her older brother Caleb (Sam Blin) isn’t so bad. But one night at dinner, Ruth announces that the devil spoke to her. And he doesn’t stop.
Ruth isn’t the only nuanced, finely-drawn character in The Snare – all five are thoroughly believable. Her mother Abigail (Cyd Blakewell) is struggling to understand her newly-defiant teenage daughter, while making her voice heard as the first female pastor at the family’s nondenominational church. Though Ruth and Caleb get along fairly well, he’s pining for a girl at school and dealing with an anxiety disorder. And family patriarch David (Joel Ewing), a science teacher, still quibbles with his wife’s deep faith.
Though my teenage years are long past, I remember the frustration of feeling powerless, lashing out for either no reason or every reason in the world. Not only does playwright Beach accurately capture this unique and torturous life stage, she also ties in the concepts of faith and uncertainty. No one hears the devil talk to Ruth, except for Ruth herself. There’s a very real possibility that this is the work of an overactive imagination or hormones, and as talk becomes action, an equal possibility that something is seriously wrong with Ruth. Beach explores both possibilities, along with the reactions of Ruth’s family and feminist atheist Sloane, all of whom grapple with the sudden, violent changes in the sweet girl they once knew. Both Beach and director Elana Boulous treat each character with respect and dignity, and aside from a couple of sitcom-like moments, The Snare is less cheap thriller and more fine domestic drama. Scenic designer Ashley Ann Woods (the rising star behind Steep’s Posh and Lifeline’s Miss Holmes) transforms the top floor of the Broadway Armory into a vibrant, cozy home increasingly infiltrated by darkness. The ensemble is exquisitely cast and directed, especially Blakewell as a woman who finds herself at a crossroads as a pastor and mother, and Heffernan as a girl on the verge of something potentially destructive and threatening.
The Snare is both ominous and affirming, horrific and surprisingly sweet. There are many times when it could have become overblown, gratuitous or stereotypical, and yet it never does. In this intelligent, honest portrayal of religion, family and teenage girlhood, Beach asserts her strong voice and Jackalope Theatre Company puts itself on the map.
The Snare continues through April 1st at Broadway Armory Park, 5917 N. Broadway (map), with performances Thursdays-Saturdays at 8 pm and Sundays at 3 pm. Tickets are $5-$25, and are available online through their website (check for half-price tickets at Goldstar.com). More information at JackalopeTheatre.org. (Running time: 2 hours 20 minutes, includes an intermission)
Photos by Joel Maisonet
Caroline Heffernan (Ruth), Sam Blin (Caleb), Cyd Blakewell (Abigail), Joel Ewing (David), Paloma Nozicka (Sloane), Catherine Wilson, Justin Burns, Nicole Tuthill, John Blick, Shaina Schrooten (understudies)
behind the scenes
Elana Boulos (director), Ashley Ann Woods (scenic designer), Sarah Jo White (costume designer), Cat Wilson (lighting designer), Devon Green (props designer), Thomas Dixon (sound designer), Rebecca Adelsheim (dramaturg), Warren Wernick (technical director), Claire Sangster (master electrician), Lexi Saunders (assistant director), Kelly Parker (casting associate), Emily Lowney (production manager), Lauren Lassus (production stage manager), Joel Maisonet (photographer)