Sunday, October 27, 2013

Broadway Review: The Snow Geese

Snow Geese Doesn't Make Our Emotions Fly
By Lauren Yarger
A group of people argues and talks over each other sentences for a while, obviously upset about something, but what that might be is much less obvious.

So begins The Snow Geese, Sharr White's puzzling play getting a Broadway run by Manhattan Theatre Club. And perhaps it would have been best if it ended there too, for it never engages us, causes us to care for any of the characters, -- save one -- and never fully justifies its presence in a Broadway theater given all the really great plays out there just waiting to be produced.

Propelling the production is its star, Mary-Louise Parker, a terrific actress whom I was looking forward to seeing on stage. The Snow Geese teams her again with Proof Director Daniel Sullivan. They both took home Tonys for that one. MTC also might have been banking on their success last season with White's play The Other Place, which earned its star Laurie Metcalf a nomination.

Whatever forces joined to result in this production, they aren't enough to make it interesting. The Gaesling family is in crisis (hence the argument at the dinner table). The patriarch, Teddy (Christopher Innvar) died two months ago and his grieving wife is in denial, big time. She has other things to worry about any way, like eldest son, Duncan (Evan Jonigkeit) getting ready to ship off to the front (it's 1917, by the way). Second son, Arnold (Brian Cross) has discovered that his father was a terrible financial manager and the family is broke.

And to the mix poor relations (and unfortunately for the time, German-accented) Max Hohmann (Danny Burstein) and his wife, Clarissa (Victoria Clark), who take up residence at the Gaesling family hunting lodge just outside Syracuse, after their home is burned by German haters. Angst is in the air as Duncan hopes to enjoy one last hunt for snow geese before shipping out.

The parts of the plot and play never come together, though, as though White took aim at the material with buckshot instead of a sharp-shooting rifle. Yes, we get that Duncan is selfish. Yes, we get that Elizabeth (Parker) would rather fantasize about being with her dead husband than live in reality. Yes, we get (thanks to Ukrainian maid and war refugee Victorya Grayaznoy (Jessica Love) that Americans are a bunch of spoiled, naive and ungrateful people. But do we care? Not much.

Clarissa, the one character for whom we feel some warmth, acts like a mother goose to fluttering Arnold when his own mother isn't really available. Is it any coincidence that the family's name seems so close to the word gosling?

The set and period costumes (designed by John Lee Beatty and Jane Greenwood) are nice to look at. My favorite part of this play was a projection effect that creates a flutter of startled geese flying around the stage (Rocco DeSanti, projection design). Not much else excited me.

It's a shame, because  there is some pretty extraordinary talent up there on stage with very little to do. Sullivan is one of the best directors on Broadway and MTC has a built-in subscription audience. Too bad all those positive elements come together in play that isn't worthy.

The Snow Geese plays at the Samuel J.  Friedman Theatre, 261 West 47th St., NYC through Dec. 15.

Christians might also like to know:
-- Lord's name taken in vain
--Sexual dialogue and activity

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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the 2000 Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (, an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She is a contributing editor for and is a theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer. She previously served as Connecticut theater editor for and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

Yarger is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly and freelances for other sites. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

She is a freelance writer and playwright and member of The Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association and The League of Professional Theatre Women. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented by the Society of Professional Journalists. She also is a member of the Connecticut Critics Circle and the CT Press Club.

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.


All material is copyright 2008- 2017 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact


Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

Reviewing Policy

I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle and The Drama Desk, the two professional critics organizations with journalists covering NY theater. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about (I review all Broadway shows and pertinent Off-Broadway shows), I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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