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Enchantment fills sumptuous 'Snow Queen'

STAGE REVIEW

March 25, 2003|Lynne Heffley | Times Staff Writer

"And out of her breath appeared an angel."

In Enchantment Theatre Company's touring production of Hans Christian Andersen's "The Snow Queen," which played Saturday at the Carpenter Center in Long Beach, brave little Gerda's cry for help against the Snow Queen's demon guards is eloquently answered with heavenly intervention in the form of a gauzy, graceful puppet.

It's a moment of narrative and visual beauty, one of many that illustrate how aptly this company from Philadelphia is named.

Or rather, renamed. Previously known as Landis & Company Theatre of Magic, it has toured here in previous years with other fairy-tale theater productions.

The new name, however, is emblematic of the company's newly honed cross-generational appeal and signature style: puppets; magic tricks; balletic, stylized movement; actors in classic masks; literate narration; evocative, action-enhancing music. (The show's Southland performances ended Sunday in Escondido; the company tours annually.)

Adapted by Leslie Reidel, who directed, Jennifer Blatchley Smith and Landis Smith, with recorded narration by Susan Sweeney, the "Snow Queen's" dreamlike effect is stylishly rendered.

Hannah Kay Kenah as Gerda heads the cast, and each actor plays multiple roles behind numerous benign, menacing or hauntingly lovely masks created by Jonathan Becker. Among them, Brendon Gawel is Kai and a Chinese prince; Sarah L. Foster is the Flower Witch and the Robber Girl; Zeb L. West performs as the kindly Grandmother and a helpful reindeer; and Ricky Cambier makes a stunning transformation from old woman to mystical shaman with a mask beneath a mask.

The actors' movements, a precisely choreographed combination of mime and dance, are well complemented by composer Andy Teirstein's nuanced original classical score.

Lighting designer Thomas C. Hase's snowflake shadows, projections, sunny glows, and hues of icy blue and white add depth, although some subtleties were lost in the cavernous Carpenter venue.

Marla J. Jurglanis' sumptuous costumes include multilayered Chinese robes and forest finery and several puppets, designed by Becker and Ken Berman, were as cartoon-cute as talking flowers and as majestic as the towering silver and blue Snow Queen, whose arms stretched across the stage.

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