The Snow Geese

I had high hopes for The Snow Geese, a new play from Sharr White. I so enjoyed White’s The Other Place, which, last year, marked his Broadway debut. Unfortunately, White seems to be in a sophomore slump. (That's not quite an accurate characterization since The Snow Geese is not actually his second play, but you get the picture.)

While White’s sharp writing is still intact, The Snow Geese just doesn’t satisfy. The play tells the story of a widow, Elizabeth (Mary-Louise Parker), trying to move on while World War I rages on overseas. She is left with two young adult sons (Evan Jonigkeit and Brian Cross), one who has remained home with her and one who has joined the service. At rise, the three are in their upstate New York home with Elizabeth’s sister and brother-in-law (played by the reliably good Victoria Clark and Danny Burstein, respectively).

Family dramas can be great fun, but they can easily get out of hand, and that’s what keeps The Snow Geese, directed by Daniel Sullivan (Orphans) from taking flight. The first act is good enough, though it’s mostly expository. But the second act takes a turn for the melodramatic and things just get a little too eye-roll-inducing for my taste. (Kudos to the luminescent Clark (Cinderella), though, for remaining grounded and natural throughout the chaos.)

Returning to Broadway, Parker does fine work. I actually commented (during intermission, of course) to my friend that she seemed very un-Parker like, in that she did not appear aloof and was not trying to flirt with everyone. (These characteristics have been a hallmark of many of her characters.) Instead, she was fully engaged and truly responsive to everyone around her, including the family’s new maid (Jessica Love). It was a treat to see something different from Parker, and, in particular, to see her so present on stage.

If you’re a Mary-Louise Parker fan, you might enjoy seeing her on stage but I wouldn’t run to see The Snow Geese. Though John Lee Beatty’s scenic design is supple, and though Victoria Clark is impressive, it’s just not quite what is could be.