Montel, Sally, Ricki, Jerry – beware! .
"Klondike and Snow," developed by the group Bill Hussy
Stephenson, and now on stage at five myles, takes a long, hard
look at the peculiar phenomenon of daytime television interview
and talk shows. The result is a play that, director Stephanie
Mnookin says, "walks the line between disturbing and funny."
Whichever way you look at it, the show is definitely ready for
"Klondike and Snow" was created through improvisation
by five talented performers – Patrick Ferrell, Larry Grimm, Eliot
Laurence, Katherine Wessling and Mnookin. Inspired by the story
of two abandoned polar bears (Klondike and Snow) who achieved
fame in Denver before they finally found a home in Sea World,
the group went on to explore similar situations where people
might gain fame and notoriety through media appearances.
There’s the cross-country biker (Eliot) who serves as a leitmotif
throughout the show. He endorses "Goo," a nutritional
supplement. He never turned to Jesus in those "dark and
difficult days" when he didn’t get along with his mother
(who now travels with him as he makes the TV circuit) and he
employs a battery of workers to manage his mail and maintain
his Web site.
Shelley is a fat girl who is really a "slender princess"
under her hefty exterior (played by the definitely not overweight
"People think I’m a slob, or I’m dirty, or I don’t care
about myself," she wails.
Ferrell plays a man who is so hyper-allergic that he must live
in a protective body suit. He responds to the interviewer’s persistent
questions with a detailed account of his malady, hard-pressed
to admit that eventually he might die because of it.
And Mnookin and Wessling, sporting platinum wigs, portray conjoined
twins who have been separated but are still haunted by the sordid
details of their past, which they insist on pursuing.
Set designer Valerie Green has effortlessly recreated the mood
and the illusion of a TV studio, with colored lights hung from
the ceiling, tape on the floor and a few stools and wheeled chairs.
A glass screen, transported about the stage to occasionally frame
the actors, abruptly turns the theater audience into a television
Daniel Antonio Srebnick’s original music comes in at all the
right moments and is in admirable harmony with the tone of the
Although "Klondike and Snow" was workshopped at the
Ontological Downstairs Series and at New Actor’s Workshop, and
much of the text was derived from improvisation, additional sources
are "Klondike and Snow," a documentary video, a National
Geographic polar bear video and the Montel Williams show (where
the polar bear story was extensively aired). But it is the genius
of this production that brings all these sources to life.
Grimm, who does most of the interviewing, is particularly adept
at capturing all the ticks and mannerisms of TV talk-show hosts.
But the interviewees are also excellent as they reveal their
innermost secrets and bare their battered souls.
Andy Warhol famously said that every person has his 15 minutes
of fame. Apparently these minutes are something many people crave.
What else could explain the bizarre behavior one sees on some
of the raunchier daytime shows?
But what motivates those who watch total strangers make total
fools of themselves before millions of people? For one thing,
as "Klondike and Snow" proves so eloquently and hilariously,
these shows can be quite entertaining. For another, the antics
and anxiety of these people either touch us, or make us feel
happy and content in our knowledge that we are nothing like these
Like all good comedy, "Klondike and Snow" has a painful
edge. Why do we make heroes out of polar bears and bikers? What
is so compelling about a lonely fat girl who writes poetry? Why
are we fascinated by the details of disease? Perhaps the people
in front of the screen are just as ridiculous as those in front
of the camera.
Happily, "Klondike and Snow" makes no pretense to having
the answer to these probing questions. Unlike the shows it parodies,
"Klondike and Snow" does not preach and audience opinion
and participation is not encouraged.
"Klondike and Snow" plays
Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7 pm through Nov. 9. Tickets
are $15. Five myles is located at 558 St. Johns Place. Call (212)
615-6738 for tickets and further information.