‘Hundred Words for Snow’ streams via Theatrical Outfit

Kristen Jeter appears in Theatrical Outfit's streaming production of "A Hundred Words for Snow."
Courtesy of SaturnBlu Productions
Kristen Jeter appears in Theatrical Outfit's streaming production of "A Hundred Words for Snow." Courtesy of SaturnBlu Productions

Credit: Handout

Credit: Handout

The COVID-mandated shutdown of Atlanta’s theater community more than a year ago seemed particularly unfair to former Theatrical Outfit artistic director Tom Key. After some 25 years at the helm of the thriving downtown company, the local luminary had planned to bow out at the end of its 2019-20 season last spring, with a remounted version of his widely produced signature 1980s musical “Cotton Patch Gospel.” Needless to say, though, the show did not go on — thus depriving Key (and us) of the proper fanfare and send-off he so richly deserved.

In a similar respect, the ongoing pandemic has been no more kind to incoming Outfit artistic director Matt Torney. A native of Belfast, Ireland, he relocated to the U.S. in 2006, earning an MFA degree in directing from Columbia University, and working extensively at various theaters in New York and D.C., among other regional markets.

“My work is grounded in the idea that theatre, and other live art forms, are a vital response to a world that is becoming increasingly displaced onto digital platforms and virtual communication,” Torney writes on his website. “Artists and audience come together in the same space, united by stories that celebrate, console and wrestle with the complexity of modern life.”

“A Hundred Words for Snow” (by Tatty Hennessy) marks a rather inauspicious Outfit debut for Torney, insofar as it’s a streaming production that’s essentially — and, indeed, necessarily — “displaced,” a “virtual communication” on a “digital platform,” as opposed to being especially representative of a “live art form,” and in which artists and audience never exactly “come together in the same space.” None of which is Torney’s fault, of course, but such is the “complexity of modern life” these days.

Shot and edited by Brian Wallenberg of SaturnBlu Productions, the 100-minute one-person show highlights a splendid performance by Atlanta actress Kristen Jeter as Rory, a London teenager who embarks on an expedition of sorts to the North Pole, with an urn in tow containing the ashes of her late father, a geography professor and would-be explorer.

Along the way, when she isn’t name-dropping or sharing historical and scientific anecdotes about the likes of Fridtjof Nansen, Roald Amundsen and Elisha Kent Kane, Rory navigates a few adventures of her own: a sexual “indoctrination” with a teenaged boy she meets in Norway; a memorable encounter with a kindly woman researcher; and an ultimate reunion with her worried, widowed mother.

Kristen Jeter appears in Theatrical Outfit's streaming production of "A Hundred Words for Snow."
Courtesy of SaturnBlu Productions
Kristen Jeter appears in Theatrical Outfit's streaming production of "A Hundred Words for Snow." Courtesy of SaturnBlu Productions

Credit: Handout

Credit: Handout

It might have been more dramatically compelling and effective had Hennessy actually introduced and incorporated some of those secondary characters into the action of the play, instead of simply relying on Rory to narrate everything about her experiences with them — although Jeter’s British accent is impeccable nonetheless.

Most disappointing is the production’s lack of stylistic atmosphere. As a backdrop to the bare-bones set is a large screen, but aside from projecting an occasional cloud formation or the silhouetted outline of a forest, Torney squanders opportunities to suggest a visual sense of wonderment about the isolated or expansive natural environment. A dream sequence involving an ice floe and a bear is singularly underwhelming. Jeter’s shivering voice and body language reflect the frigid surroundings more persuasively than any of Torney’s directorial touches.

“A Hundred Words for Snow” makes you want to see more of Jeter’s work. And, for entirely different reasons, more from Torney, too.

THEATER REVIEW

“A Hundred Words for Snow”

Available for streaming through May 2 (but tickets must be purchased by April 30). Links range from $23.20 (for individual access) to $34.80 (for group access), and $11.60 (for students). 678-528-1500. theatricaloutfit.org.

Bottom line: More strongly acted than it is directed.

In Other News