House Theatre of Chicago Presents THE SNOW QUEEN Review — Shards of Self-Reflection

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House Theatre of Chicago Snow Queen
Jesse Mooney-Bullock designed this giant Polar Bear and other animal puppets

When theatergoers check in at the box office, they pick up a triangular card with a mirrored surface on one side. They are advised to keep it handy; The Snow Queen will eventually reveal its meaning. Derived from the very same Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale that underpins Disney’s megahit Frozen, The House Theatre of Chicago provides a very different journey into the tundra.

For starters, this first production of the company’s 20th anniversary season offers free rapid Covid tests before every performance. Come at least 30 minutes prior to curtain time and a nurse encased in PPE can swab you in a room off the main lobby. A Covid test would hardly induce children to see a show, but Chopin Theatre, The House’s longtime venue, has other attractions. Families can wander through the eclectic assortment of furniture, memorabilia and tchotchkes on Chopin’s main and lower levels before and after the performance.

The House Theatre of Chicago's The Snow Queen’s Broken Shards

Onstage, projections animate the set of white tree trunks and icy platforms, quickly pulling the audience into the wintry universe of The Snow Queen. Then humans and creatures enter, launching a story about making mistakes and discovering the connectedness of people, animals and nature. There is Chione, a character who wears an enchanted mirror around their neck and abandons their responsibilities. When Chione meets Kai and Quin, cousins and friends, a mirror-shattering crisis occurs. Reassembling the mirror’s broken shards become necessary to reassembling their lives. Along the way, everyone encounters loss, enlightenment and maturity.

House Theatre of Chicago Snow Queen
Vero Maynez (left) plays Chione and Jackie Seijo plays Quin

Puppetry Enriches the House Theatre of Chicago’s Production

A defining element of House productions is puppetry. Deftly integrated into the narrative and facilitated by skilled cast members, the white raven, arctic fox, and polar bear enrich the emotional texture of the play. This viewer developed deep concern for the fate of those animals, crafted from delicate spiraling materials. In the tradition of fairy tale catastrophes, the glaciers of their habitat are melting. In the reality of climate change, fairy tale endings simply don’t exist.

House Theatre of Chicago Snow Queen
Vero Maynez (left) plays Chione and Thomas Tong plays Harpier, the White Raven

The actors playing human characters did not inspire the level of concern as the animal puppets – at least till The Snow Queen’s final scenes, in this reviewer’s opinion. More nuanced performances may evolve over the course of the run. Nonetheless, the show comments decisively on humans’ heavy global footsteps. For families seeking a shard of self-reflection to offset seasonal indulgence, The Snow Queen may just be the ticket.

House Theatre of Chicago Snow Queen
Chione (Vero Maynez) flanked by Harpier (Thomas Tong, left) and the Arctic Fox (Roxy Adviento, right)
House Theatre of Chicago Snow Queen
Thomas Tong plays Harpier, the White Raven
House Theatre of Chicago Snow Queen
Molly Brennan (foreground) plays Womoon, with Vero Maynez as Chione
House Theatre of Chicago Snow Queen
Chione (Vero Maynez) flanked by Harpier (Thomas Tong, left) and the Arctic Fox (Roxy Adviento)


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Adapted by new House Theatre Artistic Director Lanise Antoine Shelley, and directed by Amber D. Montgomery, with magic by Dennis Watkins and puppets by Jesse Mooney-Bullock, holiday audiences will warm right up to this heartfelt winter fantasy adventure.


Molly Brennan (Womoon/Grandmother), Vero Maynez (Chione), Christine Mayland Perkins (River), Jackie Seijo (Quin), Thomas Tong (Harpier), Vincent Williams (Kai) and Roxy Adviento (puppeteer)


Production team:

Lanise Antoine Shelley, adaptor; Amber Montgomery, director; Sully Ratke, scenic and costume design; Trey Brazeal, lighting design; Olanrewaju Adewole and Kevin O’Donnell, sound design and composition; Liviu Pasare, video design; Dennis Watkins, magic design; Jesse Mooney-Bullock, puppet design; Caitlin McCarthy, properties design; Hallie Gordon, creative producer; Derek Matson, dramaturg; Molly Brennan, accessibility coordinator; Matthew Yee, animation; and, Ben F. Locke, casting consultant.


January 2, 2021

Thursdays at 7:30 p.m.
Fridays at 7:30 p.m.
Saturdays at 3 and 7:30 p.m.
Sundays at 3 p.m.
Runtime is 85 minutes, no intermission.


Chopin Theatre
1543 W. Division St.



For more information please visit House Theatre website.

Photos by Michael Brosilow

Note: Picture This Post reviews are excerpted by Theatre in Chicago.

Susan Lieberman
Susan Lieberman

About the Author: Susan Lieberman

Susan Lieberman is a Jeff-winning playwright, journalist, teacher and script consultant who commits most of her waking hours to Chicago theatre. Her radio drama In the Shadows aired on BBC Radio 4 last season.

Editor's Note: Click here to find more Picture This Post reviews by Susan Lieberman

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