Off Broadway (and sometimes Broadway) Reviews and Information.

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Snow White Approaches in A Venomous Color: The Fairest

The new play at The Wild Project, A Venomous Color: The Fairest, has a simple premise that unfolds in layers. The framework is a workplace from Disney Studios - long before it became famous for animated movies. The play is set in the workshop where the cel illustration for Snow White the movie is done. This workplace provides the added pressure because they are working to complete the first full length animated feature. This was a period of sex segregation, and it is women who outline and paint the cels that are designed by men. The show provides a mirror to many of the problems and expectations in the workforce today, augmented by a disdainful attitude towards women.

Sivan Gordon-Buxbaum in A Venomous Color: The Fairest

The workplace is very much a product of the late 1930s, high pressure, cramped quarters and no air conditioning, along with the attendant attitudes towards both workers and women. These women diligently at painting and outlining the cells, with little recognition of their contributions. Four of actors in A Venomous Color embody the stereotypes of the times. 

Helen is a non-nonsense gal who does not like endless chatter while painting (Emma DeCorsey). Betty Ann is a friendly and comfortable background worker (Taylor Cozort). Grace has a terrible boyfriend she let back into her heart over and over (Sara Ruth Brown, in a great turn). And Frances, is the quiet and talented one with a hidden reservoir of emotion that will boil over later (an excellent Sivan Gordon-Buxbaum).

The entire cast of A Venomous Color was excellent. They do those things we all to at work sometimes: gossip, laugh, and occasionally grow frustrated. The fa├žade of the 1930s never slip, and this sense of time and place built trust with the audience.

Two other women float in and out. Hazel a female boss that is Walt Disney’s sister-in-law (Meghan E. Jones). She pops in to deliver news and exhortations to work quicker to deliver the movie. Ms. Jones was fantastic portraying the difficult role of boss, mentor, and den-mother. A position made more difficult by her unusual relation to Walt Disney.

Margie is played by Winnifred Bonjean-Alpart Margie the movement model for Snow White herself. As an artist, not a mere illustrator, she has style and grace as well as a sense of superiority. It is Margie / Snow White that is the catalyst for the changes in Frances. As she works on the character more and more, Frances begins to imagine Snow White berating her.

The dichogamy between the Snow White that Frances creates by painting, and the Snow White that taunts her daydreams grows from a distraction, to disagreements and then into an internal tug of war. Frances takes her a job to extremes as she places more and more pressure on herself. It is fascinating to watch Frances break down as “ discussions” with the Snow White drift into taunting and an adversarial relationship

The similarities with our work lives is clear. We understand that the emotions and conflicts of this work place from 90 years ago are consistent with our own era. Burnout, unresolved mental breakdowns, workers as drones and personal relationships, these consistently take a back seat to work. Frances, who has invested so much of herself worth into work, suffers the most. A previous emotional trauma occurred that she cannot face forced her to leave the familiarity of home. Her “discussions” with Snow White leave her more and more brittle.

A Venomous Color: The Fairest isn’t an indictment of Walt Disney or the studio, per say, but it functions as a safe place to air out our current angst. Written and directed by Cameron Darwin Bossert, the play moves at a brisk pace. The intermission less show feeds our own anxiety of finishing on time. The ensemble is excellent, ensuring that this is a provocative and thoughtful piece.

A Venomous Color: The Fairest
Director and Playwright: Cameron Darwin Bossert | Cast: Sivan Gordon-Buxbaum, Winnifred Bonjean-Alpart, Sara Ruth Brown, Taylor Cozort, Meghan E. Jones, and Emma DeCorsey

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