Presented by Liars & Believers and Moonbox Productions
Written by Rachel Wiese (To Bed To Bed & Vasalisa the Blessed) and Jesse Garlick (Malka and the Behema)
Directed by Jason Slavick
Costume Design by Kendra Bell
Featuring Music by Veronica Barron, Singer Mali, and Carols Odria
Video Editing by Sam Powell
Zoom Mastery by Cynthia Hu
Review by Gillian Daniels
ZOOM – In winter, spring is a fairy tale. That sounds pretty ridiculous, what with empirical data suggesting, yes, the northern hemisphere will tilt once again toward the sun. If you, like me, are on the East Coast in January, though, it’s going to be a while, and what with the current horror of a plague ravaging the country, this winter is particularly bleak. The usual comforts of gathering indoors with friends and family are not as available to us as they have been in the past. So, why not unite with one another through the power of sharing stories?
Beyond A Winter’s Day looks to capture the interactivity of live theater and it succeeds with wholesome energy to spare. Our storytellers appear in what they come to call “the little boxes” on Zoom. Their background images are all galaxies even if they, individually, all appear to be from more earthbound cultures. They are Isabel (Rachel Wiese), Mishka (Rebecca Lehrhoff), Fergus (Glen Moore), and Stanislav (Jesse Garlick). Their quippy dialogue between stories is warm and familiar. Rather than simply talk to each other, however, they also speak directly and energetically with the audience.
Our first tale is a Baba Yaga story from Mishka, Vasilisa the Blessed. The shadow puppets utilized for this piece are just lovely. Lehrhoff is also listed as the puppet designer, here, which makes me enormously jealous that someone gets to have more than one talent in life.
After the conclusion of the fable, Lehrhoff’s character becomes upset. I deeply connected to her feelings of lockdown isolation. I thought of how it’s such a grind to be a performer, denied the in-person connection of theater. Watching a family show that talks openly about that frustration was freeing.
This “winter variety show” drifts to other tales. Malka and the Behema is Stanislav’s fun and tender piece, complete with puppets by Faye Dupras. Veronica Barron sings a poem by Samuel Longfellow, and afterwards describes “a warm hum” inside her own body and how it’s so good to give that hum to other people. The last story, Bed to Bed, has our tellers dressed as animals as they discuss hibernation and drinking.
“How do we know where we’ll land?” Fergus asks during the course of the show. “If we’re not storytellers, who are we? Nobodies.” Isabel assures him (and, by extension, us) that this, too, shall pass. Spring comes and so, one day, will meeting friends and family in-person again.
While watching Beyond A Winter’s Day, I was struck that my roommates and I were all streaming content at the same time. In some ways, theater right now is hampered by the fact that it’s so similar to streaming a TV show, talking with friends over video services, and listening to school lectures. It’s not great! This show, for all its craft, doesn’t change that distanced consumption. But, my God, it’s so nice to burrow one’s self in bed under blankets and, in my case, a cat, and enjoy the art, music, and words of others.