Arts on the Horizon makes the most of a sparse, simple stage for their entertaining production of Rex Daugherty’s “Snow Day.” The performance starts with nothing more than a sheet spread across a clothesline; at either end are ladders, each rung wrapped in garland. At the center of the stage is Skip (Amanda Forstrom), asleep under a blanket. She is mischievously woken by an elf named Jane Frost (Natalie Cutcher), and the two enact the wide-eyed joy and innocent charm of a young child enjoying a winter morning.
It would be fair to worry that the simple setup is problematic in engaging the intended audience of 2-6 year old children, as is the performance’s complete lack of dialogue. But Forstrom and Cutcher make up for it with their energy and overtly exaggerated expressions and actions. The two have a palpable chemistry, and an innate understanding of how movement best engages the audience. Additionally, the unelaborate arrangement lends itself to the imagination, and it’s easy to believe the notion that the two have gone from inside to outside, or are sledding down a hill, or tossing snowballs at each other as the day gets darker.
Much of this is helped by music. Esther Covington, wearing winter white and standing to the side, expertly plays any number of instruments – particularly violin – to set the mood or add accompaniment to scenes or actions, whether it’s one of the actors stepping through snow, building a snowman, or putting on a coat and scarf.
And there are some wonderful moments for the adults in attendance, both in the nostalgia that the performance brings, and in subtle bursts of creativity – Forstrom and Cutcher walking closely together, expertly mimicking each other’s actions; showing off their snow angels; or when their silhouettes are playfully displayed behind a dark blue screen. But these moments, while admirable and noteworthy, are woven in so smoothly that they don’t distract the audience from the story being told.
“Snow Day” is a lively celebration of the joys of winter for the young, and an opportunity for parents to revisit the days when every step in the snow was a lovely, innocent adventure.
Snow Day plays through December 16, 2017, at Arts on the Horizon performing at The Lab Theatre at Convergence — 1819 N. Quaker Lane in Alexandria, VA. For tickets, call (703) 967-0437, or purchase them online.