'Strange Snow' message is one of loyalty, honesty

January 20, 1995|By Phil Greenfield | Phil Greenfield,Special to The Sun

"Strange Snow," the Stephen Metcalf play currently in production at the Colonial Players of Annapolis, is a piece about memories and losses shared by a pair of Vietnam veterans.

That alone could be cause for some theatergoers to start running the other way.

But the prevailing message of "Strange Snow" is not Agent Orange, foul-mouthed rage and '60s-induced psychosis, but honesty, loyalty and the resilience of the human spirit.

As hard as it can be, in the playwright's words, "to put the fatigues to sleep," his characters show us that love and courage can help put at least some of the pieces back together.

The plot is an unassuming one. Megs appears on Davy's doorstep before dawn on the first day of fishing season, expecting his old buddy from Vietnam to join him.

But David is a disenchanted boozer who has never come to terms with the sad memories of terrible events in Southeast Asia. He is closed off, especially from his long-suffering sister, Martha, spinsterish schoolteacher dying inside for a life of her own as she tends to her aloof, brooding brother.

As Megs and Martha begin to hit it off -- over Davy's scornful objections -- questions are raised. Why has Davy become such a recluse? What really happened over there? What is responsible for the latent anger eating away at the outwardly affable Megs? And, most important, can Martha and Megs sustain a relationship, with all this khaki-and-green emotional baggage standing in their way?

What is striking about this play is the extent to which we actually come to care about the answers to these questions. This is a tribute to the unpretentious humanity the playwright breathes into his characters and to the wonderfully adept way they are brought to life by these actors.

I am used to seeing Ken Sabel playing more high-powered, intellectually acute characters than Megs, and I wondered whether he'd be able to sustain the down-to-earth "red-necky" persona through the play.

I found him believable every step of the way, so much so that when Megs succumbed momentarily to violence, I felt personally betrayed.

Marti Pogonowski's Martha will tug at your heart strings from her first frizzy-haired entrance through each and every attempt to connect with the two emotional misfits fate has placed on her doorstep. She is wonderful, especially in the touching re-enactment of her senior prom, this time with Megs along as her date.

It is David's self-pitying anger that animates the play, and Patrick McConnell has the contemptuous sneering down pat.

Tom Newbrough's direction is unpretentious and unfailingly natural. The characters unfold without any manipulative "help" from the sidelines.

L The only real snafu is the boring video that opens the show.

Surely, with all the gut-wrenching Vietnam War footage available, something less inert could have been found.

I loved the soundtrack, though. I write this on Tuesday and I've been singing "little darlin', I feel the ice is slowly melting" since Sunday night.

'Strange Snow'

Performances are at 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays and 7:30 p.m. Sundays. Matinees are at 2:30 p.m. Jan. 29 and Feb. 5. The show will end Feb. 11. Tickets are $7 to $10. Information: 268-7373.

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