Sharr White is an interesting playwright. His first work, “The Other Place,” a modern psychological mystery, was presented in a tiny off-Broadway theatre by MTC and transferred to the Samuel J. Friedman on Broadway last season. It was a showcase for Laurie Metcalf’s talents. His newest venture is a period piece, “The Snow Geese,” set in Syracuse, NY at the beginning of WWI, is quite a departure, where the playwright weaves a rich tapestry of characters dealing with many different issues.
The first act is a bit heavy and tedious, but the second emotionally charged act is worth the wait. Directed by Daniel Sullivan, whose touch is always on target, the 7 member cast, led by luminous Mary Louise Parker, is a fine one. Parker is Elizabeth, a newly-minted widow, grieving for her husband, Ted, played by attractive Christopher Innvar. He is only in one scene with her, but it is a powerful one, which develops and explains their loving relationship.
Elizabeth is the mother of two sons: Duncan, the dynamic Evan Jonigkeit—we saw him at Hartford Theatre Works in his debut in “High”---and the younger 18 year old Arnold, freshly conceived by Brian Cross. Duncan has been raised as the privileged son, sent to the right schools, and is now in the Army ready to leave for Europe. Brian, who has been left behind, has discovered that his father mismanaged the estate and they are “broke”—a word repeated over and over again. His mom does not want to accept reality, although all the servants have been fired and the lodge is up for sale.
Her in-laws, Bible-loving Clarissa, and husband Max, a doctor, originally from Germany, Victoria Clark and Danny Burstein, are staying with her; we discover, that as an anti-German protest, their home and office have been burned to the ground. Burstein’s warmth and intelligence shine through in this role of Max, particularly when challenged hatefully by his nephew, Duncan. Jessica Love is lovely as the new maid, Viktorya, from Poland, who has lost her whole family and sees things for what they are.
Like Chekhov’s “The Cherry Orchard,” trees surround the home; there is the first day of a shooting party, and nostalgia fills the air. John Lee Beatty’s earthy set design, lit mournfully by Japhy Weidman, captures the essence of the action. Jane Greenwood’s Costumes for Elizabeth and Clarissa are elegant. We know that the lives of these families will be different as they face the uncertain future.
“The Snow Geese”—a chance to see Mary Louise Parker on stage, always a joy-will play only through December 15.