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The Barter Blog

Wooden Snowflakes — The Will to Believe

November 26, 2018

Review by Bonny Gable

November 26, 2018

As days become shorter and darkness lingers longer, a ray of brilliance that remains is the winter holiday season that brings people together, invites good will, and turns our thoughts to bettering the world. But Christmas can also be a time of testing – of our love, our patience, our stamina, and our faith. As the earth readies itself to rest and renew, we are called to tend to a renewal of our own. Do we have the right stuff to see it through? Barter Theatre’s Wooden Snowflakes by Catherine Bush lets us consider the question. It is a beautifully rendered story of the tests of human will and love.

On a blustery Christmas Eve in rural Kentucky, circumstances trap an unlikely twosome together when Eve Lawson’s car crashes on an icy road and she is rescued by Simon Peter Whitaker. After taking her to his humble but cozy home, it becomes immediately evident that they are polar opposites. The gentle, innocent, optimistic Simon meets resistance at every turn from the jaded, toughened, pessimistic Eve. Simon’s belief in Santa only earns him Eve’s scorn, and as further topics for discussion arise their debates take on a whirlwind of tosses and turns.

But through the course of their evening together we discover that the two are more alike than surface appearances would reveal. Having suffered severe losses and attempting to survive through sheer will, each has created a shell into which they have cocooned, where day-to-day existence is made tolerable. Cracking open the shell and exposing coping mechanisms so finely chiseled into place forces them to come face to face with the challenge of the truth and the risk of trusting again. A renewal of faith in the uncertain future is a daunting task.

Director Katy Brown has mined the depths of this heart-rending story for all of the gold within. She has wisely guided her actors to the inevitable catharsis of two hearts crashing together in an inescapable tangle. The result is a theatre experience that lingers in your heart and mind long after curtain call.

The superb two-member cast of Kim Morgan Dean as Eve, and Andrew Hampton Livingston as Simon give a stunning performance that will make you laugh as well as bring you to tears. Livingston is absolutely perfect as the simple wood carver with a huge heart and a huge capacity for hurt, but also an immense courage. Dean is mesmerizing as the polished and worldly career woman with thinly disguised tender spots and wisdom that transcends doubts.

Derek Smith’s set design works in perfect harmony with Camille Davis’s design of the lighting. The interior of a humble home with aging furnishings stretches out over the entire stage, at first bathed in a sepia light that gives way to warm light inspired by the wood stove at center. A simple Christmas tree is economically decorated with Simon’s wooden snowflakes, a cranberry garland and old-fashioned bubble lights the only hints of color. The soft Christmas tunes in country western style of Tony Angelini’s sound design help set the mood. This subtle setting is the perfect underscore to a story laced with profound themes.

As we watch Simon and Eve’s story unfold we are invited to ponder many questions. How much does fate play a role? Why these two people, on this night? Life’s curveballs hardened Eve and Simon into snowflakes that would never melt; yet these two wounded souls find each other. Is it because they must? If it seems like magic, maybe it’s because the healing power of human connection fueled by divine power makes the seemingly impossible possible. Perhaps that power is simply the will to believe.

Wooden Snowflakes runs at Barter Theatre, Abingdon, VA through December 23, 2018.

For tickets and information contact 276-628-3991 or visit www.bartertheatre.com.

Bonny Gable is a freelance writer based in Bristol, Virginia.