Arts Listings

Arts: Ragged Wing Is a Welcome Addition to Local Theater By KEN BULLOCK Special to the Planet

Tuesday January 24, 2006

“When we reach the end, we shall know more than we know now. Once upon a time...” 


Strange that this familiar opening formula for bedtime stories and fairy tales should be dictated by a character from Hans Christian Andersen, The Snow Queen, towering over her Snow Guard of workers in gauzy white jumpsuits at the beginning of Andrea L. Hart’s Splinters ... and Other F Words, produced by Ragged Wing Ensemble at the Northbrae Community Church on The Alameda, between Marin and Solano. 

The Snow Queen, all in glistening white gown and train, of course, is played on stilts by Ragged Wing cofounder Anna Shneiderman—credited as “Objective Observer” in the program, which clinical title goes along with the opening line above and its air of psychoanalysis. 

She proceeds regally throughout the whole play—90 minutes without intermission—dominating the stage and, until the end, its denizens, commenting sharply on the action which she signals in its phase-shifts with an upraised arm, a toss of her cape and what sounds like the blast of a winter’s gale. 

Splinters tells a story—a very clear one—but its episodes aren’t organized in a strictly dramatic or narrative sequence, despite the presence of the “Observer” seeming to narrate as well as participating in the scenes or vignettes along with the fluidly moving and changing ensemble, which flies across the floor of the playing area, between a mirror frame entwined by vines behind a steamer trunk (full of costume pieces and props) and the apron of a low curtained-off stage, forming ever-new groupings and tableaux.  

The story that’s told is of a girl who becomes a young woman (cofounder Amy Sass), sometimes the Gerda of Andersen’s tale, searching for Little Kai who’s in thrall to The Snow Queen, sometimes the daughter of an apostate minister who wrestles with leaving his wife, family, congregation and belief (both played by Keith Cory Davis). 

The father-daughter relationship (which reads like half an Electra complex) is complemented by the mother and other older women (one, met in a bar, is referred to as The Crone), as well as a boyfriend, a game show host, a sister and a girlfriend and other characters that spring up along the way as the story goes through its shifts, from one approach or attack to another. Credited as The Singer and Male and Female Chorus, this pool of roles is performed with energy by Mariah Howard, Mateo Hinojosa and Lauren Pizzi. 

(The real chorus of the play, the Queen’s Snow Guard, is an able bunch of middle and high school students—Esther Dane, Aiden Gavet, Amalia Mourad Korczowski, Eline Leemans, Roxie Perkins and Noah Teller—from the East and North Bay. The ensemble and other cast members teach drama and stress education and the integration of students into productions as a company goal.) 

Keith Cory Davis infuses his shifting roles with much juice, as he displayed in Ragged Wing’s first outing, The Serpent. Amy Sass, who directed that piece, is more internal, but often brings a sharp focus to Gerda/the young woman, which she plays with determination. 

Mateo Hinojosa always keeps an edge of humor to his “smarmy” roles, and Mariah Howard and Lauren Pizzi slip in and out of characters which they nonetheless delineate with distinction. 

Anna Shneiderman is every inch the Snow Queen atop her stilts, a tour-de-force of skill throughout the show (and a well-choreographed fight over her ice scepter), though perhaps exits and entrances would have added to both her role and the topology of the show’s design, which her figure dominates, relentlessly vertical, as the rest of the cast runs, slithers, writhes, pops up here and there, in processions, bar talk, a work camp or in bed. 

Andrea Hart has directed her own text, which is a kind of collage of statements, dialogue, and movement. Admitting to an early and continuing taste in theater as “a psychological dreamscape,” she’s outdistanced the constant risk of falling into a pastiche of primal scenes by constant theatrical activity, the main characters supported by or in contrapuntal distinction to the chorus. 

The sprains and speed of the show’s unfolding make up for some dramaturgical sketchiness, providing the amplitude that fleshes out the script’s perceptions into both the immediacy and staying power of drama. 

Ragged Wing is one of the newest of a batch of young movement theater companies that have added leavening to the Bay Area theater scene in recent years—foolsFURY of San Francisco, which just hosted a mini-festival for such troupes from all over, is probably the most ubiquitous, and most of them have some relationship with Dell’Arte Players and their school in Humboldt County. 



Ragged Wing Ensemble’s Splinters...and Other F Words, a performance in seven little parts runs  

at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays through Feb. 11. at the Northbrae Community Church, 941 The Alameda, Berkeley. Tickets are  

$12-$25. For reservations call  

(800) 838-3006.›