Monday, May 16, 2011

The Conquest of the South Pole

by Manfred Karge

On Sunday afternoon I attended a performance of the final play of Strawdog Theatre Company's  2010-2011 season.  It was an adaption of a 1986 comedy by German playwright Manfred Karge, but it could have been about out of work men in 2011 America.  The comedy fantasy, directed by Kimberly Senior,  is based in real-life concerns about the problems of endemic unemployment. The play focuses on four young men in a small German town, who stave off the despair of joblessness by re-enacting Amundsen's expedition to the South Pole in an attic.  The attic belongs to Braukman played with intensity by Tom Hickey (who I enjoyed in his recent performance in The Master and Margarita) and he and his friends never leave that attic.  The references to both Amundsen and Shackleton's famous expeditions yielded a dream-like hope where there was little to hope for.  The ensemble acted out a fantasy of deprivation in Antarctica that mirrored their own lives where for most of the play the only person with a job was Braukman's wife.  While the background of the playwright lies in a Brechtian approach to drama I thought of some of Shakespeare's famous fools when viewing the antics of Frankieboy played by Joel Ewing whose role as a dog in the expedition demonstrates most directly some of the child-like playfulness that engages the audience as the fantasy unfolds.  While it takes some imagination and the scenes are a bit uneven at times I found the myself laughing and enjoying the attic journey more often than not.  The production was filled with poetic wit and energy that belied the seriousness of the characters' plight.  I left convinced that their fantasy could promise a better day.

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