by Mike Poblete · July 26, 2014
In Malthide Dehaye’s Snow White and the Beast, Lili, a struggling painter looking for a connection, finds a new home in a Manhattan dive bar and its grandfatherly bartender. She soon encounters the smooth talking, whimsical, poetry slamming Vincent. The free spirits’ link is solidified with a pregnancy, and seemingly impossible decisions to be made for the future, all within the familiar disillusion of drug addiction. Lili’s wealthy, physically abusive father who blames her for her mother’s death, takes notice and seems to convince her to depart from her dark downward spiral. Things do appear to turn around for Lili, but just when her art piques the interest of a Chelsea gallery owner, a violent and deceitful Vincent reemerges with his old promises and temptations.
The winner of the 2014 The Lee Strasberg Theatre & film Institute StrasbergWORKS competition, a program of that aims to help students learn about New York theatre production by mounting their own work, Snow White and the Beast’s script suffers many classic pitfalls of a first time playwright. Dehaye, a Belgian actress, captures a relaxed multinational atmosphere with a lot of genuine emotion, while delving into the general ennui of being a lost soul in our modern world. There were poignant notions raised, such as how to help someone that chooses to be a victim, at times spoken with a poetic fluidity reflective of Vincent’s profession. But the exposition filled soliloquies can do with a bit of editing. Too often the dialogue would revert to cliché; at one point with the resolved Lili actually quoting the lyrics “I Will Survive” for motivation. Poor pacing and uncomfortably long scene changes resulted in an exhausting running time of three hours and ten minutes. Most of the characters, including Vincent’s sexy London girlfriend and the bizarre subconsciously conceived homeless man, were written for plot purposes without much depth. Lili has a bit more meat to her, but she is a reactionary character, caught in the currents of a life she didn’t choose for herself; her lack of shaping her own actions make for a passive audience commitment.
There is a lot of talent in this production. Malik Ali has some genuinely charismatic moments as the troubled Vincent, and David Woodrow brings charm to the bartender. Director Renoly Santiago and Set Designer Liliana Ines Barrera made excellent use of the set by piecing together four vibrant, detailed and different locales, spanning New York to London, into a single open space. The dive bar partition had a surprising amount of character, and some clever choices from Sound and Lighting Designer Nicholas Thomas created a bewitching park atmosphere that made us want to believe the predictably dishonest Vincent.
But ultimately the script isn’t fully realized. The lack of character development and dimensionality resulted in a short supply of empathy that made difficult issues, such as violence towards women and fetus abusing drug habits, uncomfortable to sit through.