Review: WHO KILLED SNOW WHITE? at 4th Line Theatre

by Lynn on August 14, 2018

in The Passionate Playgoer

At 4th Line Theatre, Millbrook, Ont.

Written by Judith Thompson

Directed by Kim Blackwell

Original music and musical director, Justin Hiscox

Costumes by Meredith Hubbard

Sets and props by James McCoy

Sound by Esther Vincent

Choreography by Monica Dottor

Fight director, Edward Belanger

Cast: Maja Ardal

Cynthia Ashperger

Cassandra Guthrie

Mark Hiscox

Tom Keat

Andrei Preda

Grace Thompson

Steven Vlahos

 A chilling, moralistic play about bullying, the well-meaning victim and how so many people are affected. Wonderfully directed by Kim Blackwell, but the trick ending doesn’t work and is really not earned.

The Story. Judith Thompson referenced the story of Reteah Parsons for this world premier. Reteah Parsons was the young teen who was tormented, bullied and humiliated by her schoolmates until she took her own life.

Ramona is the mother of Serena. Ramona has been haunted by Serena’s death. She tells us that Serena took her own life because she was bullied. Ramona then goes over Serena’s life in loving detail: from her joyous birth, through her happy childhood, to the time everything changed for her daughter and she became a target for the bullies until it ended tragically.

 The Production.  Kim Blackwell directs Who Killed Snow White? with her usual flair and style. She has a wonderful vision for how to use the whole sweep of the farm (that we can see) which means the barn yard, buildings and the meadows off to the right.

In the first scene, Ramona (Cynthia Ashperger) is writhing on the ground, reacting to her usual nightmare of seeing all the dead kids who took their lives or lost them young. When we look beyond Ramona on the ground, there in the distance in the tall grass of the meadow young women in white dresses pop up, as if from the ether, then disappear into the grass. They then all rise up and rush off in formation and out of Ramona’s nightmare when she wakes up.  She says her own daughter took her life because she was bullied and then she goes over every second of the girl’s life.

Cynthia Ashperger as Ramona is what you would expect of a distraught mother, she is angst ridden, consumed with grief and remorse. As the play goes along Ramona will feel guilty she didn’t do more to protect her daughter from the horrors of the outside world.

When Serena was born Ramona and her husband Jay (a strong Mark Hiscox) were overjoyed and revelled in this beautiful baby girl. Serena was a happy kid. She had friends. Then in grade eight these friends seemed to turn on her and ostracised her.  Judith Thompson’s writing is particularly strong in illuminating the pull of peer pressure to belong and be accepted. Thompson also captures the sense of loneliness and isolation that Serena felt in that situation. As Serena, Grace Thompson has that ability to convey Serena’s confidence and fragility.

Serena made friends with another awkward kid, Riley (Tom Keat, wonderfully lively) who was gay, proud and sweet and together they navigated the margins of being ‘outsiders.’ Then matters escalated with the bullies.

Monica Dottor is a gifted choreographer and her depiction in movement of the violence done to Serena is both balletic and brutal. You want to look away but you are compelled to see because of this gripping ‘choreography.’

As we are told by Ramona at the beginning of the play Serena could not take the cruelty anymore and took matters into her own hands.

Comment.  We believe Ramona when she says at the beginning of the play that Serena is dead by taking her own life. But then Judith Thompson turns her play completely around at the end. Ramona says they wanted to give the audience a happy ending. (Sorry if this is a spoiler but this is a serious problem with the play and needs to be addressed).

I think that’s a cheat. It’s not the ending the play deserves. I appreciate that Judith Thompson has a strong moral compass and conscience. She sides with the underdog, the marginalized and the bullied.  But sometimes she can sound self-righteous and deal with matters in a simplistic way. The villains in the piece are villains from beginning to end with no redeeming qualities. No people in authority seemed to have done anything here to deal with the problems of bullying (except Jay, Serena’s father). Audiences live in a tough world and can deal with harsh things. I believe they could have dealt with the ending this play works towards and deserves.

That said, I think Who Killed Snow White? is a gripping, emotional play with a strong message. It’s dealing with something important and bravo to 4th Line Theatre for tackling  it.

Produced by 4th Line Theatre.

Opened: Aug. 8, 2018.

Closes: Aug. 25, 2018.

Running Time: approx. 2 hours.

Leave a Comment

Respectful comments are accepted on this site as long as they are accompanied by a verifiable name and a verifiable e-mail address. Posts that are slanderous, libelous or personally derogatory will not be approved.