nytheatre.com review by Josephine Cashman
August 11, 2007
Magda, the bookish and shy new girl at school, meets the flirtatious and outgoing Winnie in science class and immediately they become Best Friends Forever—that kind of close, lively, and adventurous friendship that can only happen at 15. They talk over each other in their excitement even as they finish each other's sentences as they tell us about their impulsive decision to travel to Antarctica to find the magnetic South Pole, certain that "it will change everything." And it does.
Produced by Fevvers Productions and written and directed by Carolyn Raship, this is an adventure of fantastic and imaginative proportions. Do they actually travel to Antarctica or is it just an elaborate game of pretend? While it's not entirely clear, it's certainly real enough to Magda and Winnie, who meet oddly sinister penguins, see whales, encounter weather they hadn't quite prepared for, and encounter polar bears who are clearly a world away from their natural habitat.
Maggie Cino and Jessi Gotta enthusiastically throw themselves into the story, and quickly win the audience over with their vivacious characterizations. There are charming and laugh-out-loud moments, such as their dance as they prepare to travel far south with parkas from Marshall's, and the imaginary slide show they hope to present to their friends upon their return. Cino, as Magda, is excellent at conveying both envy and wistfulness as she surveys Winnie's popular and fearless ways with boys. Gotta is winsome as boy-crazy Winnie, running off with the mysterious and romantic White Bear, played by Christopher Lueck. The White Bear offers his help in return for time with one of the girls, and Magda encourages Winnie to go with him. Lueck is marvelous with his physicality and his White Bear is an extraordinary creation. With echoes of the classic Cupid and Psyche Myth (and many other folk and fairy tales), the White Bear is clearly not what he seems, and his presence and secrecy creates a rift between the two BFFs, and the conclusion of their journey is both comical and heartbreaking.
Raship's direction is lyrical and spirited, and the set design by Daniel ZS. Jagendorf and sound design by Daniel McKleinfeld are inspired, evoking the childlike wonder and trepidation at the unknown tundra of Antarctica and life, and adulthood, itself. Raship uses the actors' background in physical theatre to maximum effect, and some of the effects of it are striking. The theatre itself feels a little too big for the play, and the story might have been helped along in a more intimate setting. But the cast and crew have clearly worked together before and their enjoyment is contagious as they create an inventive, magical world. Don't miss this playful romp of a show—you'll leave with a lilt in your step and a smile on your face.