Who knew Antarctica was really made of cheese?

Baby, it's cold outside: Carl Guthrie and Lucy Miller-Downing
Baby, it's cold outside: Carl Guthrie and Lucy Miller-Downing (Photo courtesy of Laura Spector)


City Theatre, 3823-D Airport, 569-6155
Through Feb. 11
Running time: 1 hr.

Say this for the Crank Collective's new musical, Antarctica: It doesn't ever pretend to be something it's not. The fact that it's a farcical piece of silliness with heaps of deliberate overacting, cheap-looking set-pieces, and characters who bear only the slightest resemblance to actual human beings is made clear the second the lights come up and the show's lead, Carl Guthrie, struts onstage singing a Vegas-tinged take on "Ice Ice Baby." Because the show's about Antarctica, get it?

There are so many winking, nudging "Get it?" moments that your ribs are likely to get sore from all the elbows the production shoves in 'em, but for the right audience, that stuff passes for fun. The plot is surprisingly complex for a 60-minute performance that features about a half-hour's worth of songs: On a cruise ship in the Antarctic, Guthrie's Max Shackleton, a weary, disheveled entertainer, is obsessed with his ancestor Ernest, who famously led a failed expedition to the frozen continent without losing a single crewman. Also on board are a pair of mad scientists (Cassidy Schiltz and Rob Faubion) who want to perform The Island of Dr. Moreau-style experiments on the ship's passengers. Max, meanwhile, simply wants to perform his epic one-man show about Ernest's expedition for them, if only his boss (Alexandra Russo) will let him.

If all that sounds overwhelmingly silly, well, that's what Antarctica aims for. The action is pretty straightforward and easy to follow, and the songs – while hard to distinguish from one another (they're not particularly hook-laden and mostly share the same tempo and overpowering vocal ensemble) – manage not to get in the way. Aside from a historical note about the real Ernest Shackleton in the program, there's not a single root in reality to grab onto here.

Instead, what Antarctica offers are the sort of setup/punch line jokes, situational gags, and groanworthy puns that make President Obama's spilled-milk zinger in his recent State of the Union address seem downright cutting-edge. This is a show in which the villain mugs for the audience and drops a genuine "mwah-hah-hah" laugh. Christian Huey as the ship's old sea-dog captain grouses about wanting a peg leg – but his HMO won't cover it. If that sort of gag is what you look for in an evening of musical theatre, then this show offers those charms. Audiences who can't handle the cheese, meanwhile, aren't likely to find a lot to appreciate in Antarctica.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Arts Reviews
All the Way
All the Way
In Zach Theatre's staging of this epic political drama about LBJ, the fight for civil rights feels particularly urgent

Robert Faires, May 1, 2015

Random Acts of Magic
Random Acts of Magic
The 2015 batch of Out of Ink 10-minute plays is a satisfying buffet of silliness and thoughtfulness

Elizabeth Cobbe, May 1, 2015

More by Dan Solomon
The Work Matters
The Work Matters
A look back at some of our most impactful reporting

Sept. 3, 2021

The Time of Their Lives
The Time of Their Lives
Richard Linklater and Ellar Coltrane reflect on the 12 years they spent making 'Boyhood'

July 18, 2014


Antarctica, Crank Collective, Carl Guthrie, Cassidy Schiltz, Rob Faubion, Alexandra Russo, Christian Huey

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Behind the scenes at The Austin Chronicle

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle