The Snowflake Factory and Nutcracker

The Snowflake Factory

Call the Red Scare Squad—there's talk of collectivizing the Factory of Cold. What if all those blue-nosed little proles snatch away the means of production and start cranking out identical, state-approved snowflakes for the lumpen masses? Oh, the horror. Jonah Von Spreecken's first full-length play is a wispy fantasia about mass-produced weather and the tear-drenched cost of capitalist innovation. Hoping to overcome a plunge in cold production at his factory, the evil, wheedling Mr. Slurch (played by Von Spreecken himself, pictured) taps a team of over-achieving "lackeys" to invent the mother of all cold products—cold-causing products, that is. The subtext is ever so rich with Marxist implications, but this being the holidays, let's skip the dialectic and go straight to the material. Spreecken's play, part Wonka and part post-toddler Teletubbies, has the feel of a vanity project: derivative, overly clever and self-consciously cute. And yet, by aspiring merely to pleasantly occupy space, the show achieves a kind of slacker charm. There's some nice balletic choreography, with wonderful solo violin accompaniment by Sebastian Lange, and the small, talented cast has fun goofing on their elfin, helium-voiced roles. At times, the kitchen-sink treatment, which has the play grabbing from this and that silly referent, is almost too ironic for its own good; for instance, in an attempt to draw snowflake-making tears from one of the workers, his compatriots play an endless succession of schmaltzy movies—Bambi, Ordinary People, Dead Poets Society—that almost brings the show to a grinding halt. However, the production contains enough goodwill and inspired merrymaking to make it a worthwhile waste of an hour and a half. Slurch is a delicious villain, an update on the leering, mustache-twirling schemer of old serials. For the most part, it all moves at a nice clip, which makes it a good show for the kids. And of course it has the

added benefit of not being A Christmas Carol or The Nutcracker. Ho ho ho. Northwest Film Forum, 1515 12th Ave., 800-838-3006, 7 p.m. Wed. Dec. 21-Fri. Dec. 23. RICHARD MORIN

Nutcracker - Pacific Northwest Ballet

In general, companies don't usually tinker much with the choreography for classical works, but Nutcracker is a singular beast. There are versions set in the Biedermeier Germany of the original scenario, and others set in Harlem, San Francisco, and under the sea. The atmosphere and the steps change as frequently as the setting, so that what is a child's dream in one production is a backstage drama in another. PNB's version, with choreography by Kent Stowell (pictured) and designs by Maurice Sendak, clings to a slightly darker vein, as the mysterious Drosselmeyer of the first act becomes the exotic Pasha of the second, eyeing the young woman Clara speculatively. McCaw Hall, 321 Mercer St., 206-292-ARTS, $18-$102. 7:30 p.m. Wed. Dec. 21; 2 & 7:30 p.m. Thurs. Dec. 22-Fri. Dec. 23 and Mon. Dec. 26-Wed. Dec. 28; noon Sat. Dec. 24. SANDRA KURTZ

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