Addison — Pack the tuxedos and get ready to see some penguins, because Risk Theater Initiative makes its big comeback with Carolyn Raship’s Antarctica, directed by Marianne Galloway and Micah Lyles.
Magda (Jessica Cavanagh) is new at school. The first friend she makes is Winnie (Galloway). And somehow through their odd, valley girlish babbling, they come to a conclusion that based on the idea of trying to escape their mundane and/or embarrassing or awkward lives—it was seriously tough to follow at times—they’ll travel to Antarctica, like one of the teachers had.
Naturally, they make it, and that’s where things get weird. Apparently, they’re not just happy with going to the desolate continent; they must also go to the absolute polar south. Of course, this is a death wish for two teenagers. That is until they’re visited by a magical polar bear (Chad Gowen Spear). Taking Marianne as a lover—really—Magda is left to trek to the pole on her own. Eventually though, reunifications and happy endings ensue.
The show is billed as an absurdist fairy tale, apparently by people who have never seen a fairy tale or an absurdist play. Labeling it this way limits it. For starters, absurdist theater actually has fairly specific rules it follows. It doesn’t just mean weird. This isn’t absurdist. At least not totally. Yes, the girls’ overly clichéd dialogue fits the mold, but introducing the grizzly bear, and the journey itself, is more surrealist. Not to quibble too much, of course.
There’s also a strong attempt at being meta, with Spear often holding signs that literally signpost the action or subtext of a scene. It’s a bit trite.
Overall, there are some laughs. Galloway and Cavanagh are talented performers—more talented than the show, really. It’s not bad, but let’s just say that the girls’ reasoning for taking the crazy trip in the first place is more solid than the concept of this play.
» Antarctica repeats at 7:30 p.m. Friday, March 14; and 5 p.m. Sunday, March 16 in the Studio Theatre at the Addison Theatre Centre
» WaterTower Theatre's 2014 Out of the Loop Fringe Festival is 10 days of live theater, dance, music and visual art. To see the full schedule, go here.