Review of Rose and the Rime, Yale Cabaret It’s not every day you encounter a new myth for the change of the seasons. One of the oldest, of course, is the story of Persephone in Hades, and you may find yourself thinking of old, elemental tales like that as you watch the plot develop in Rose and the Rime, written by Nathan Allen, Chris Mathews, and Jake Minton of The House Theatre in Chicago and brought to the Yale Cabaret by Kelly Kerwin. This is the kind of story people who spend a lot of time in frozen climes may like to tell themselves. After all, as that cold wind begins to blow and you look forward to months of snow, you may start asking yourself: what did we do to deserve this?
In Rose, we meet a very adorable little girl—played by Chalia La Tour with the kind of feisty charm that makes Shirley Temple look like a rag doll—and her doting uncle (Galen Kane). They live in a place so cold it’s very unwise to be out of doors at all after the sun goes down. Inside, Uncle prepares hot chocolate and tells always the same story about how the fairest, kindest maiden and the best-looking, nicest guy meet and mate and bring back sun and song and dance and eternal good times. It’s just a make-believe story told to keep out the dark and cold, or is it?
As Rose begins to press her Uncle for details about what happened to her parents—“I’m old enough to know,” she announces—a detail pops up: there was a magic coin that could change winter into summer. “No, I want the true story,” Rose insists, feeling her Uncle is still in a fairy tale. But that’s just it. Rose is not in a dystopian story about a desolate winter world, but rather a fairy tale—and so there is a magic coin, and there is a wicked Rime Witch (Lauren Dubowksi, quite malevolent with fearsome fingers, a treated voice, and an evil cackle), and there are perils—like moving trees and wolves—that beset Rose on her quest.
Making Rose’s journey unfold in the Cab’s limited space takes some real ingenuity, and that’s one of the great pleasures of this show. There’s a long runner looking like a water slide down the center of the space and, with the right manipulations, it becomes a swirling, snow-filled wasteland; when Rose has to step across frozen streams, La Tour moves along a path of stools; lights, by Joey Moro, and Sound by Jon Roberts help create the sensations of this winter wilderness adventure, with atmospheric music conjured by Joel Abbott, and a lovely snowfall effect at the end.
The transition to summer—who knew that ice path was also a sand promenade?—features shed clothing, Hawaiian shirts, upbeat tunes, and hot dogs distributed to the crowd, and a dance party fleshed out by happy locals (Steven Reilly, David Clauson, Avery Trunko, Olivia Scicolone). It also features the arrival of Jimmy (Andrew Burnap), as a sweet guy with a gorgeous way with a song—here it’s The Temptations’ “My Girl”—to woo and win our Rose. Along comes marriage, a baby, and, in place of “happily ever after,” a turn of events that suggest not only that winter is in us rather than just an atmospheric condition, but that also put the plot onto its cyclical path, as we soon arrive at another uncle—Charlie (Niall Powderly, Jimmy’s brother, by turns comically clueless, evilly grasping, and sympathetically struggling)—trying to raise another girl-child in a wintery world.
The story’s mix of the archetypal and the childlike make it resonate as the kind of tale told to kids, though the implications of the story make it not so childish after all. At its heart is a story of envy towards those whom fortune favors, and the kind of collective dysfunction that, well, make the birth of a hero necessary and perhaps inevitable—in fairy tales at least.
Rose and the Rime By Nathan Allen, Chris Mathews, and Jake Minton Directed by Kelly Kerwin
Dramaturg: Davina Moss; Sets: Aleander Woodward; Costumes: Benjamin Fainstein; Lights: Joey Moro; Sound: Jon Roberts; Additional Music: Joel Abbott; Stage Manager: Emily DeNardo; Producers: Sarah Williams & Emily Zemba; Production Manager: James Lanius III
Yale Cabaret October 16-18, 2014