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LA Theater Review

Freezing Antarctica

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"Standing on your head, anything is possible-in freezing Antarctica." Bill Sterritt frequently uses this refrain in his quirky play, which he also directs. And it's a message he appears to take literally. For 90 minutes, Sterritt fills the stage with a blinding blizzard of allegories about socialism, capitalism, and several other isms until it's impossible to see his point clearly. He effectively uses the theatre's tiny space and low-budget special effects, and the cast ably transitions from melodrama to absurdist comedy and back again. But the script is so dense with metaphors and symbolism that it loses most of its meaning, its humor, and any emotional impact.

The story, set entirely in Antarctica, takes place after the end of the U.S.S.R. Comrade Nikita Alexandrovna Romanov (Barbara Streifel Sanders) is a Soviet meteorologist who hears about the fall of her homeland but decides to continue her important experiment that requires her to travel hundreds of miles to the South Pole via dogsled. She is met by Jack Kennedy Armstrong Earhart (Chris Pauley), an American explorer heading to the Pole, who proposes they travel together. At the same time, Valdimir Ilych Ulyanov (Sean Pritchett), known to the world as Lenin, appears in Antarctica. Aware that he has been dead for many years, Lenin meets aviator Amelia Earhart (Suzanne Turner), who has been "living" in the desolate continent since her disappearance in the 1930s. From that point, Sterritt's script delves into philosophies of politics, the environment, and idolatry.

Several decent performances rise above the dialogue, in particular that of Pritchett, who looks remarkably like Lenin and who portrays the revolutionary leader with appropriate doses of passion and statesmanship. Likewise, Turner succeeds in the role of a historical figure, her Earhart cocky and free-spirited. Sterritt is able to inject a sense of wonderment into his fantastical tale. But he crams too much into his script, and it quickly becomes muddled and uninteresting-and never recovers.

Presented by SPQR Stage Company at Studio/Stage, 520 N. Western Ave., Hollywood. Thu.-Sat. 8 p.m. (Also Sun. 2 p.m. Nov. 27.) Nov. 25-Dec. 17. (323) 972-5605.

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