Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Review of Irish Theatre of Chicago's The White Road

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called The White Road. It was by Karen Tarjan and it was directed by Robert Kauzlaric. It was about a man named Shackleton (Paul Dunckel) and his crew who were on this expedition to walk all the way across Antarctica. But then it was getting too cold and their boat had sank because of the pack ice. So they decided to have some of the people go onto a lifeboat to find help and the other ones would stay on Elephant Island with Frank Wild (Michael McKeogh). I think this story is about hope, friendship and adventure. I've been learning a lot about Shackleton lately and I felt like it seemed very accurate. I thought this was a very exciting production because it is just a thriller. There are these guys trying to survive bitter cold and harsh conditions, but then it has a good ending. You get so involved in all the characters because they each have a special thing about them and you get to know them more and more throughout the course of the show.

Shackleton had a lot of interviews with the men to see if they would be good to go on the mission. And he asked them really strange questions like "How do you sleep?" He asks that sort of stuff to see if they will be ready for harsh conditions and if they'll be fun to be around. He doesn't think they all have to be tough. He thinks they have to be nice people but still know what they are doing and be willing to work. I thought that Vincent's (Stephen Walker) interview was very funny because he was just so deadpan and serious and was like, "I sleep in a bed." There was also another interview with a man named Worsley (Kevin Theis) who had had a dream about how he was on a boat and was steering a boat through a bunch of ice. And the next morning he saw the advertisement. I was very happy they kept that part, which is true, in the play. And Worsley also did this really funny thing once he got the job where he would ram the boat into the ice and then every time he did that he would go "Wooo!" There is also a man named Orde-Lees (Joseph Stearns) who was chased by a seal later. I thought that was very funny how he ran past and Shackleton was like, "You're a very fast runner." He was very refined when he came in for the interview and was like, my name is from this place. Shackleton wants him because he can be a cheering-up person when he plays his banjo, but he is also a walking encyclopedia which is a good thing to have on a expedition.

There is a guy named McNeish (Steve Herson) who really liked this cat who they named Mrs. McNeish. He did kind of remind me of a cat because cats can be kind of solitary and all-business. But then you also get to see his heart when he is with the cat. The dogs and the cat play a very big role in the story because they are one of the ways all the men stay sane. But they are also like family to them. So when they have to kill the cat and the dogs they are all so miserable and sad and the audience is so miserable and sad. All the dog shooting happens behind a shadow screen and there is a guy who is talking to each of the dogs before they die. They go through all their names as kind of like a memorial to them. I thought that was very very sad, but then you also knew that was what had to be done if they wanted everyone else to survive. You feel like you don't hate the people who shoot the dogs because you know it is not their fault.

There is a stowaway named Blackborrow (Gage Wallace) who they find in one of the boxes. When he pops out Shackleton asks him the same questions as he does in the interviews, but he also says, "You know you'll be the first to be eaten." And Blackborrow is like, "Yeah, I don't really care." And Shackleton is like, "You're on board!" He thought he would be good because he had no fear and has some truth-detecting in him and that made him a good candidate for this expedition. And it also had to do with how funny he was. He was one of my favorite characters because he was very funny and he was kind of like the new guy. No one liked him at first but they did when they got to know him. This character is in the play as comic relief but he also has some very touching and sad things happen to him. I think the audience really loves him because he is so energetic and optimistic and he thinks he can get away from his problems if he goes on this exploration, but then he has new problems but also gets an adventure. The audience identifies with him too because he is more of a normal man. He is not a sailor or a photographer or an explorer. One of the funniest characters is McIlroy (Nicholas Bailey). He thought that he was the most handsome man on earth and had Hurley (Neal Starbird) take all these pictures of him. Whenever Hurley was taking a picture of him, McIlroy would pose very powerfully. He was like, "I should show everyone this because I look so handsome and adventurous!"

I liked how the actors used their bodies and the set (designed by Ira Amyx and Merje Veski) to show scary moments that you thought they couldn't really do on a small stage. I thought that it was really awesome when Crean (Matthew Isler) and Shackleton and Worsley all built a sled out of their luggage. Then they slid down the hill and it was super awesome. I kind of wanted to do that too, but it was probably very dangerous in real life. They also had these put-together-your-own lifeboats. It was cool because they had to rebuild everything and you could see that happen. The journey in the lifeboats took so long and everyone was squished together in the three different lifeboats with paddles and lanterns. It did seem like they were out in the open water!

People who would like this show are people who like adventure, stowaways, and sleds made out of luggage. I think that people should definitely definitely go see this show. I thought it was a great, suspenseful, and bittersweet show. It is a crazy and awesome experience and you are on the edge of your seat the entire time.

Photos: Jackie Jasperson

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