July 5, 2004
by Rob Kendt
I can't recommend you go see Mirror Mirror at the 24th Street Theatre, but if you do happen to go, don't be late. Everything exciting in this half-cocked revision of the Snow White tale happens in the first few minutes.
First, there's Tom Buderwitz's set, whose central playing area is an old-style zodiac, with the circular shape is mirrored by an impressive wooden mill wheel. Christopher R. Boltz's lighting is appropriately dim and boggy. Then, with the accompaniment of John Zalewski's ominous sound design and Brenda Varda's live plainsong vocals, the set moves: A drawbridge clatters down at one of the zodiac stage with its chains rattling, and a scary grate clangs down at another. A tired middle-aged king (Steven Ruggles) enters to turn the big wheel. He's soon joined by a cane-wielding old shaman (David Dionisio) as water trickles from their leaky roof; a mysterious intruder (Randy Irwin) in a tunic arrives with a message.
Sounds great, doesn't it? Too bad that nothing about this striking opening--which hauntingly depicts a king presiding over a starved, sinking realm--relates to what follows. The mysterious messenger later turns out to be a priest intent on converting the local pagans to Christianity--talk about a buzz killer. The king, with scant reference to that evocative first scene, retreats to the sidelines as his young queen (Mary C. Loveless) dies in childbirth and her evil sister (Joanna Daniels) seizes control.
She also seizes a magical mirror given to her late sister by Drasil, the ambling shaman from the first scene. In due time the mirror starts talking to her, giving her beauty tips and political advice, and the rest is Snow White history. Well, sorta. You won't find for any dwarves here. Indeed, you'll be hard pressed to find any levity here at all. Everyone onstage wanders about in their fairy tale costumes (nice work by Rosa Lopez), intoning lines as if they're spells, circling each other with their inscrutable calculations, until a final showdown of mimed mojo powers that's positively B-movie material.
Daniels in particular has a strikingly stark, eyes-wide-open visage that suggests what a great Evil Stepmother she could be. But at crucial moments, the script, by Richard Alger, Tina Kronis, and Debbie Devine, who also directed, leaves her stranded with no lines, or what's worse, bad lines. "I feel uneasy" is a typical pointless declaration.
The rest of the cast doesn't have much more to work with. Irwin is a strikingly rough-hewn figure as the priest, and Ruggles remains appealing, perhaps because he's quite superfluous to the central story, and can stand smilingly outside it all, like a kindly uncle.
Most in the fairy-tale swing of things is Loveless, who also plays the mute princess: Her snow-white skin positively glows, her red-lipped face is framed by clusters of lovely black curls, and she looks smashing in red.
This production is apparently intended for family audiences, unlike such previous 24th Street fairy-tale deconstructions as last year's disturbing, delightful Kate Crackernuts. I can confirm that Mirror Mirror is appropriate for all ages in that there's nothing overtly offensive to community standards (whatever those are) on display.
But children as much as adults demand and deserve a ripping good tale, told with imagination, grace, or at least a sense of play. Mirror Mirror is instead earnest, ritualistic, and dull as a stage sword.