Review "The Conquest of the South Pole": Delusional Comedy about Survival

Audio Podcast at ITUNES 
Narrated by Joshua Volkers
At 3829 N. Broadway
Written by Manfred Karge
Adapted by Calvin McLean, Caron Cradle, Ralf Remshardt
Directed by Kimberly Senior
Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 8pm
Sundays at 4pm
Thru May 28th 
Running Time:  75 minutes with no intermission.
Reviewed by Katy Walsh

Ever wonder what happened to the geeks playing Dungeons & Dragons marathons in the basement during high school?  Well, they grow up, lose jobs and play South Pole Expedition.  Strawdog Theatre Company presentsTHE CONQUEST OF THE SOUTH POLE.  Four unemployed men battle depression with fantasy role playing.  They decide to reenact Roald Amundsen's legendary South Pole expedition in 1910.  Each of the guys takes on an explorer's job assignment and life.  Tracking the frozen wilderness, blinded by snowstorms, killing dogs for nourishment, the men confront all the deadly elements.... from the safety of the attic.  The make-believe quest is an escape route from job rejection, spousal disappointment and suicidal termination.  The fiction creates friction when pretend shifts from actual facts.  Someone is not telling the whole story.  THE CONQUEST OF THE SOUTH POLE is a delusional comedy about doing whatever it takes to survive.


The show starts out Suessical with the announcement:  "Scene 1: Moose in the Noose."  The prose has a lyrical style with the repeated verse "the curtain that wasn't there yesterday." The playful banter sets the tone for whimsy.  Under the direction of Kimberly Senior, the journey goes back and forth from real and pretend.  Deciphering the illusion from the mundane gets more complicated for the guys and the audience.  Senior paces it as a tight roundtrip to the South Pole.  Leading the charge, Jamie Vann (Slupianek) thunders commands with strong survivor instincts.  Vann's grip on the fantasy is intense.   His continual redirection back into the shared daydream is both sad and funny.  His cohorts climb their own obstacles.  Michael Dailey (Sieffert) transforms from despondent to victor with a coat and googles.  Tom Hickey (Braukmann) is poignantly torn between hanging with the guys and supporting his family.  John Ferrick (Buscher) charms as the passionate champion of the underdog -- a *real* pretend dog or the fifth explorer.  Jennifer Avery (Braukmann's Wife) surprises playing her own version of survival with manipulation and understanding.  Exposing extremities for hilarious results, Joel Ewing (Frankieboy) is a dog, Justine C. Turner (Rosi) is a divorcee and Anderson Lawfer is a tool.       

German playwright Manfred Karge penned THE CONQUEST OF THE SOUTH POLE in 1986 before the fall of the Berlin Wall.  The struggling economics of that time period translates easily into American 2011 challenges.  But today with the electronic generation, long-term unemployment misery may be interrupted with extensive Angry Bird gaming instead of charades.  THE CONQUEST OF THE SOUTH POLE is a virtual reality from the ordinary.  It entertains with a unique, dark comedic twist on adventuring inside-out of the man cave.
Training to climb Mount Ranier, Joel B describes it with 'Translation is difficult.'
Production photography by Chris Ocken.       

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