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'Antarktikos' set to make audience warm to cold continent

| Wednesday, March 20, 2013, 8:43 p.m.
Billy Hepfinger and Morgan Wolk in The REP's 'Antarktikos.'
Drew Yenchak
Billy Hepfinger and Morgan Wolk in The REP's 'Antarktikos.'
Amy Landis and Morgan Wolk in The REP's 'Antarktikos.'
Drew Yenchak
Amy Landis and Morgan Wolk in The REP's 'Antarktikos.'

For most people, Antarctica is a remote, unfamiliar and exotic continent where legends and mysteries outnumber facts.

That makes an ideal setting for “Antarktikos,” says director Sheila McKenna.

The play's title refers to the name the ancient Greeks gave to a theoretical southern landmass that they believed was necessary to keep the weight of Northern continents from destabilizing the planet.

Antarctica is a great metaphor for the play because of its hardship and loneliness, McKenna says. “It's because it's the last great unknown for so many people and legendary because of the expeditions and mystery of it.”

The 90-minute drama, written by Andrea Stolowitz, will have its world premiere with The Rep, Point Park University's professional theater company, on March 21 at the Pittsburgh Playhouse in Oakland.

“Antarktikos” focuses on Susan, a writer in residence at the South Pole who enters into an unlikely conversation with Capt. Robert Falcon Scott, leader of the 1912 British Antarctic expedition.

Meanwhile, Susan's adult daughter, Hilary, finds herself unwillingly sharing a hospital room and a family crisis with an insomniac paramedic named Alex.

As the action unfolds simultaneously on two continents, time and place blurs, geographies blend and destinies emerge.

Performances of “Antarktikos” will take place in the Playhouse's intimate Studio Theatre.

McKenna has been collaborating with the creative team of set designer Stephanie Mayer-Staley, lighting designer Todd Wren and sound designer Steve Shapiro to blend the play's realistic and abstract worlds into an organic whole.

“There will be snow (created) from lighting and projectors, juxtaposed time periods, sounds of nature and machines. The stage is sort of a jumble (of locations) that is exciting to explore,” McKenna says.

It's a metaphor about explorers on an adventure, but one that audience members can connect to, she adds.

“It's like any part of our lives where we enter the unknown, whether it's a serious illness or the birth of a first child or being uprooted in a move. All four of the characters are lost in an unknown place and have to make a journey in a place that terrifies them,” McKenna says. “It addresses big fears we all have. It explores the things that are most important in life — love, family, experiences and regret.”

Alice T. Carter is the theater critic for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7808 or acarter@tribweb.com.

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