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BWW Review: SLAVA'S SNOWSHOW Is a Mess; on Stage and Off at the Dr. Phillips Center


Let me start this review by saying that I generally like everything that I see; at least to a certain degree. I can usually find some redeeming artistic moment of any production to tide me over when the work as a whole isn't up to par. However, in SLAVA'S SNOWSHOW, running through March 1st at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, I found almost no redeeming moments; nearly nothing on which to hang even the slightest artistic appreciation. This "show" involves a collection of eight clownish-type individuals who walk around the stage for an hour and 45 minutes (including a 15 minute intermission) and do little more than make a mess. In a word, this show is nonsense; and not fun, clownish nonsense, just plan "this makes no sense" nonsense.

The evening opens optimistically enough with a variation on the Marx Brothers' Mirror Game; a classic clowning and improv exercise that, when done well, can be a lot of fun to do, or watch. Unfortunately, the mimicry was so poorly performed, that it quickly went from potentially entertaining to completely tedious. That was a disappointing sign of things to come.

The show is made up of a series of vignettes, in which a yellow, chicken-like clown interacts with a gaggle of dystopian, hobo clowns in green jackets and grey hats, which may or may not actually be wings. These individual skits nearly all fall into three general categories; "follow the leader," "silly noises," and "make a mess." The repetitive nature of many of the gimmicks comes off not as a callback to a funny bit earlier in show, but rather as a lack of creativity.

Clowning is a proud and noble form of storytelling, but SLAVA'S almost purposely chooses to tell no stories. There was no narrative or thematic connection between the vignettes, and very little, if any, character was established for any of the individual clowns. The skits fluctuate between something as goofy as a clown having an argument with himself by blowing into two differently pitched kazoos, and something as terrifying as a small, dimly-lit rocking horse moving on its own. Both of these ideas are perfectly valid for a clown show, but it is difficult to imagine one in which they work well together, especially with little effort placed in trying to create connective tissue between them.

In a city that is home to both Cirque du Soliel and Blue Man Group, audiences expect more from their clowns than just general weirdness and irritation.

The only compelling moment of the night came when the chicken-clown danced and fell in love with, and then said goodbye to a coat on a rack. If more of the vignettes had possessed the heart and visual humor that this one did, this review would read much differently.

That brings me to the most obnoxious aspect of the show. At three distinct times, the clowns go out of their way to create a mess and annoyance for the audience. I won't ruin the "surprises," but I will say that throughout the night I was wiping web out of my hair, drying water off my seat, and picking confetti out of my clothing (two hours after the show ended). Oh, the phrase "Keep your eye on the bouncing ball" takes on a much more life-or-death meaning at the end of the show, just ask the poor woman who was trying to take a picture in front of me.

Admittedly two of these messy events are very creatively designed; the first for its size, and the second for its power. However, when the most complimentary thing that can be said for a show is that its designers created really big, albeit impressive, messes, that's not the most ringing endorsement.

Another disappointing aspect of the evening is in its music. While some of the more folk inspired songs were quite catchy, the fact that songs like the CHARIOTS OF FIRE theme and "O Fortuna" found their way into this not-so-vaguely Russian show was confusing. Also, the music seemed to always be slightly distorted, but I'm still not sure if that was done on purpose or not.

If you like to tempt fate, or think I could be completely wrong (always a distinct possibility), you can purchase tickets on the Dr. Phillips Center website, or by calling 844-513-2014. However, I would suggest you instead purchase tickets to the national tour of PIPPIN coming to the Dr. Phillips Center in April for a fully-realized, circus inspired show.

Did you travel to Slava's world? Did you find the messy clowns more charming than I did? Then let me know in the comments below, or by "Liking" and following BWW Orlando on Facebook and Twitter. You can also chat with me on Twitter @BWWMatt.

Photo Credit: Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts

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