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There are some who like intense drama, who enjoy nothing more than to leave a theater feeling devastated. Others like a brief show, without those pesky intermissions. Margaret Edwartowski's new Snowbound, the latest in the Planet Ant late night series, proves one doesn't have to choose. Clocking in at just under an hour, this period piece rapidly piles on one unnavigable decision after the other, mistakes that accumulate to an inevitable but searing conclusion.

In late-1870 Colorado, what remains of the Adler family is preparing for — and fearing — another winter in isolation. However, this isn't a story of human perseverance; a sense of foreboding runs throughout, and death seems to be the only possible outcome unless they uproot themselves and move closer to the city. With the weather constantly looming, timing is everything, and on-the-spot decisions are often regretful and irreconcilable — leading to more impossible split-second choices. We spend little time with these characters; the scenes are almost like snapshots, but under director Michael Carnow, the detail and clarity of what unfolds more than makes up for its brevity.

As the widowed head of the Adler household, Stephen Blackwell accomplishes much by saying relatively little, radiating hatred of his lot in life that extends to everyone he sees. Blackwell's sister, played by Jenny Tocco, struggles with the opposing choices of serving herself and serving her family, and summons a fearful strength by the play's end. Her relationship with family friend Wil Starkey (Jon Ager) is the emotional crux of the piece, and Tocco and Ager together show a genuine and sweet beginning to a true partnership. Connie Cowper, as the siblings' grandmother, is just annoying enough to be burdensome and just helpless enough to be beloved; the character could have been a fifth wheel, but was instead an integral part of the family dynamic.

The level of detail, from Michelle Becker's cabin-fever setting scattered with necessities, to the food and drink consumed onstage, helps to set this production on par with many Planet Ant mainstage offerings. Small and large violences play out, bloodless but in close proximity — I couldn't determine how certain elements of Brian Ogden's fight choreography were done, but one in particular is especially unsettling (i.e., effective). The lighting design by Carnow and Rollo is uncomplicated, but I loved the frigid luster of their pre-dawn.

Although the breakneck speed is handled well, I would advocate for further development of the play to lengthen its running time. So much happens in the last few minutes that it's impossible to process before the curtain call; the gravity of the final moments didn't sink in for me until much later. Edwartowski tackles character, relationship, and plot with ruthless efficiency, and it would be nice to luxuriate in the agonizing world of Snowbound a bit longer.


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