Perky, humorous, and unusually moving, David Lindsay-Abaire’s “Snow Angel,” directed by Amy Louise Sebelius for the Garage Theatre’s Student Showcase Spectacular, tells the story of Frida (Lindsey Logan), an outsider who, not finding acceptance among her high school peers, creates a fantasy world in the pages of her journal. These entries console her, give purpose to her imagination; they also become the premise of a story that reconciles her and her friends. The result is an enchanting tale of truth and historical fantasy, of coming of age, and of growing as an individual while finding one’s place with a group.
Glee (snow day!) becomes gloom when seven high school students in Vermont learn they have to turn in journal assignments. Ostracized Frida (Logan) writes about her encounters (real or not?) with an Amish-looking girl named Eva (Jamie Lynn Satre). Kids being kids, the other six read Frida’s accounts of Eva and they too (hive think or not?) describe their own encounters with Eva, culminating in an all-out search for Eva’s lost little sister. The search bonds this magnificent seven in ways no counselor, minister, or parent could ever do.
With fine performances, inspiring direction, and a mood-setting design, the production feels genuine. For one thing, the students are students (Orange County High School for the Performing Arts and Long Beach’s Renaissance High School for the Performing Arts), which makes Sebelius’s achievement – it doesn’t seem like acting - all the more remarkable. For another, the story presents folds coming-of-age scenes (the goofing on someone’s name; the commemoration of a driver’s license; a crush; a clique; an outsider) into the formation of an identity.
With sentences graffitied on the walls that double as both journal entries and dialogue, Rachel Vittorio’s nifty stage includes white walls that allude to both with the snow day’s whiteness and the blank chalkboards of the characters’ hearts and minds.
The characters are believable, the performances adorable. There’s a popular girl, Tina-Louise (Amara Phelps). You should hear the pride in voice when she recites the filmic achievements of the “Gilligan’s Island” actress after whom she’s named. There’s an obnoxious jock, Cliff (Luke Anderson) who use braggadocio to mask his pain for a mother in the hospital. There’s a shy boy, Benny (“Not Lenny!” – Brendan Williamson), whose crush on a sweet girl Jill (Jazzy Jones) is incandescent. See how she out-of-the-blue asks him to go ice-skating, not once but twice.
There’s a wisecracking girl, Helen (Guadalupe Ramos) whose glass eye is more a talking point than an impediment. There’s Satre’s Eva, who’s not of this world or even of the past two centuries. She is devastatingly good, with her inexplicable appearances in a driveway and the middle of a street and her sudden and inexplicable dashing across the stage with an axe. There’s Crank (Shayon S C), an otherwise adorable juvenile delinquent (arsonist, kelptomaniac) who really just wants, without success, to get Jill’s attention. And there’s Logan’s independent yet vulnerable Frida, who seeks (and finds) recourse in her imagination, which turns out to be infectious.
Performances are 8pm, Fri. & Sat. The show runs until June 25. Tickets are $15-$20. The Theatre is located at 251 East 7th St. For more info call 9866) 811-41113 or visit www.thegaragetheatre.org.