Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Tom Crean, Antarctic Explorer"

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note: entire contents copyright 2006 by Larry Stark

"Tom Crean, Antarctic Explorer"

Written and Performed
by Aidan Dooley

Production Manager Maureen Lane
Master Electrician Jeff Adelberg
Sound Engineer Nathan Leigh

Thursday, 9 February, 2006
Open Letter to:
Dr. Victoria Makker, M.D.
Healthcare Associates, Beth Israel Hospital

Last night I went out to the Boston Center for the Arts to see Aiden Dooley do his ... monologue? ... Lecture? ... one-man play "Tom Crean, Antarctic Explorer" and, oh, 'twas a grand experience! It was the first time I'd gone so far --- except for emergency-room goose-chases for silly reasons --- since the "total left-knee REVISION" back on Monday morning 23 January, and I'd've hated for my first play in seventeen days to be a bomb! But no fear, the man's a master actor and wrote an engrossing, gripping play with flashes of terror and heartbreak but always stitched together with a wry Irish grin making even the worst worth experiencing. I may have over-done, going by Orange-Line and using only the one crutch, but Dooley and his Tom made me forget any little twinges, and a fellow theater-lover was there give me a ride home. All in all I'm really glad to be back at work again!

And glad I was to be taken on such adventures by that Dooley fellow. Y'know, the whole night he never moved beyond a fringed throw-rug only a few yards long, yet he took us all to The Last Place on Earth --- for Tom Crean came only That Far from walking to the South Pole --- and them that walked there never came back.

The continent of Antarctica is a cruel place --- as Dooley demonstrated by dressing for the extreme cold and storm-slung crystal ice, and his Sound Engineer Nathan Leigh started each act with the terrifying blasts of the Antarctic sea that crushed their vessel like an eggshell. Three time Crean volunteered to try for the Pole, twice with Scott and once under Shackeleton --- and all three before the First World War, pulling sledges-full of supplies over ice miles thick under nothing but their shoe-leather.

The near-despair of fear and physical exhaustion, mile after long mile, he made palpable, not so much in the swinging rhythm of the slog as the voice-breaking shouts of unbelieving joy when sight of a hut or an island meant life had been spared. The reality of walking twenty-two miles alone on three biscuits and two sticks of chocolate, on a rescue mission that earned Crean the Albert Medal, was as harrowing as the fact that Seaman Crean --- described in heroic superlatives by them that did --- kept no diary and and was all but forgotten by history.

Thanks be, then, for Aidan Dooley who slipped himself into Crean's skin as he did his Burberry trousers, bringing him to life again. It's sorry I am I saw it so late this review cannot spur you to see such a good show, since it ends here tonight --- and thanks to The Sugan Theare Company for bringing it to Boston! --- but since it can spoil nothing for you, I can say Dooley ended his play with a typical Irish triumph: Tom Crean, after fifteen year of Antarctic roving spent his days after a medical discharge in his home (Annascaul) in County Kerry in the pub he called "The South Pole"!

( a k a larry stark )

"Tom Crean, Antarctic Explorer" (25 January - 11 February)
The Boston Center for The Arts, 527 Tremont Street, BOSTON MA

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