Tuesday, July 31, 2007

PLAY: "Tom Crean: Antarctic Explorer"

It took a long time for me to warm up to Aidan Dooley's portrayal of Tom Crean, one of the unsung "heroes" of Ireland (this, assuming that there is something heroic about plunging into the unknown whiteness of the Antarctic not once, not twice, but three times). Ironically, it was at Crean's coldest moment--the approximately 40-mile solo trek through the snow, blizzard at his back, that he undertook to save his companions--that warmed me to the survivalist narrative. I can't say, either, that Dooley oversold the role: his wild gesticulation and shrill, incredulous commentary at his own accomplishments seem a bit hyperbolic, but not any less believable. What I can say is that Dooley's writing was held back by his own slurring, stumbling performance in the second act: short of that, I was on the edge of my seat at the odds-defying account of an 800-mile voyage with Captain Shackleton (all undertaken in a tiny, wooden rescue boat), not to mention the pitch-dark slide down the side of an icy mountain, nor the depraved conditions of their various camps. There are a few anachronisms that Dooley should remove ("like banshees on a roller coaster"), and the show would be better as a 90-minute one-act, but Tom Crean: Antarctic Explorer is pretty arresting stuff.

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