Star-Bulletin Features

Monday, December 24, 2001

Participation a key part
of ‘Snowshow’s’ bizarre fun

Review by John Berger

The playbill for "Slava's Snowshow" mentions a 20-minute intermission, but the entertainment continued nonstop at the Hawaii Theatre on Saturday night despite the illuminated "Interval" sign on stage. Anyone who stepped outside for whatever reason missed the action as several members of the cast left the stage, climbed over the seats, went into the crowd and met one on one with audience members.

Anyone uncomfortable with the possibility of becoming part of a clown's act should opt for seats upstairs -- one man appeared to be on the verge of losing it and going for a clown's red nose on Saturday -- but anyone with a sense of humor and a love of adventure will want to be where the action is.

Action is the key to much of the odd, all-ages appeal of "Slava's Snowshow." There are the clowns clambering through the crowd during the interval, a disintegrating weblike material pulled over the downstairs audience, and a confetti-snow blizzard that adds to the thick layer of silver and white "snow" already on the floor.

Anyone and everyone is free to fling handfuls of the stuff in any direction as long as the lights are up. The clowns dump several cubic yards of "snow" into the front rows during the show to ensure that there's plenty to play with.

"Slava's Snowshow"

Performances continue through Dec. 29
Show times: 1:30 and 7:30 p.m. Wednesday and Saturday; 7:30 p.m. today, Thursday and Friday; 1:30 p.m. Sunday.
Place: Hawaii Theatre
Tickets: $40 and $55
Call: 528-0506 or charge by phone, 526-4400.
Maui shows: 7:30 p.m. Jan. 3 and 4, Maui Performing Arts Center, 808-242-7469.

And then there's the finale. The clowns shunt four huge, colored spheres into the crowd, and the next 10 or 15 minutes become playtime for everybody -- a perfect stress reliever for this most hectic and stressful time of year.

The exhilarating moments add welcome levity to what is at times an opaque blend of mime, visual theater and a European clown tradition darker than that generally popular in America.

Several sketches defy easy decryption or explanation. As a child in the row behind me put it so eloquently after one of the more ambiguous segments, "What happened, Mommy?"

The initial impression is watching mentally impaired derelicts warily interacting in an extremely cold environment. It takes a while to warm up to them, but the bizarre clown characters become more engaging as the show progresses.

The principal, the Yellow Clown, could be the drunken cousin of our Bozo. He wears a baggy yellow coverall with big round red shoes.

His three sidekicks, the Green Clowns, wear long green overcoats, long narrow black shoes and strange black hats with brims that extend out over their shoulders like wings.

The clowns embellish their performances with odd sound effects, props and striking lighting effects. The music is as bizarre as the clowns and adds another dimension to this fascinating show.

A word of caution: The huge spheres are light but heavy enough that trying to field one with one hand could be risky. It's fun for all ages but not for oblivious types who wander through such situations unaware of their surroundings.

Folks who are not fans of smoke, bright lights, loud noises, audience participation or mimes should party elsewhere. All others can expect to have a great time at "Slava's Snowshow."

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