The Antarctic Chronicles  - A Factual Frozen Comedy by Jessica Manuel
 Reviews form the New York International Fringe Festival!!!

License to Chill
by Doug Strassler
The Antarctic Chronicles reviewed August 16, 2009

Jessica Manuel adjusts to life in a colder climate. Photo Credit:Zoee B.
The Antarctic Chronicles may take place deep in the frozen environs of the South Pole, but this one-woman show starring Jessica Manuel in a virtuoso performance radiates nothing but warmth.

Chronicles is part of the 2009 New York International Fringe Festival. Manuel explains in the piece, which she wrote herself and is running at the Players Loft, about how a need for change drove the Midwestern-born-and-bred spitfire to seek out a change. Once the novelty subsides, however, she finds life on the other side of the planet still has its pitfalls. She has to perform manual labor, including shoveling snow and turning valves, make sure she hydrates enough so that her urine does not discolor, and eventually becomes estranged from the boyfriend she left behind.

Throughout, though, Manuel keeps the pace moving with exquisite energy and perfect comic timing. Her facial expressions, posture and gestures punctuate the way her spirit gradually diminishes as her year continues.

For a Fringe work, the show is also technically impressive. Paul Linke, the director, seamlessly incorporates clever musical cues and real visual images from Manuel’s year into Chronicles. Highlights include Manuel’s breakfast buffet routine, mapped to Dolly Parton’s “9 to 5,” and a glimpse at a snowy slasher movie.

Manuel’s spirited work is triumphant. There’s no better haven from this late-summer heat wave than to catch the wildly diverting Antarctic Chronicles.

The Antarctic Chronicles

Players Loft 115 MacDougal St (at Minetta Ln)
West Village  | Map 212-279-4488 Subway: A, C, E, B, D, F, V to W 4th St  | Directions
Tickets: $15
**** [FOUR STARS] Jessica Manuel's entertaining one-woman show, about the year she spent in Antarctica as a fuels operator, showcases the native Minnesotan’s talent. A former high-school homecoming queen, Manuel—a natural Midwest beauty with a set of teeth to die for—is bored in her dead-end postcollege administrative job. On a whim, she decides to commit to a one-year stint in Antarctica. The ups and downs of the next 12 months come to life under the direction of Paul Linke; a short clip of home movies made by her colleagues in the frozen tundra enhances her story as well. Manuel has an engaging personality and impressive comedic range, and the audience seemed reluctant to leave: They wanted to stay and hear about her next adventure—in Australia.—Lisa Levinson, director of sales and marketing director (North America/Latin America), Time Out Guides

Reviewed for By: Jennifer Rathbone
Jessica Manuel’s self-written and performed one-woman comedy, THE ANTARCTIC CHRONICLES, presented as part of The New York International Fringe Festival, vividly diaries her experiences on a year long career jump from Minnesota to a U.S. science base in the South Pole. With visual aides via projection and simple props, Jessica engages the audience in a physical reenactment of her daily routine, relationships, and self-discovery in one of the coldest regions of the world; where summers are marked by new “fingi” arrivals and fresh produce, while winters are isolated with eternal darkness and memory loss. The coldest, driest desert on earth, and vibrant and youthful Jessica, who chose to work there, conveys the adventurous atmosphere that she finds herself transplanted into.
On this sweltering hot, dog-day of August, it was a relief to feel the chill of the air-conditioned Player’s Loft. The audience meanders into a dark theatre, the haunting sounds of arctic winds and the softly cascading snow on the rear wall of the stage melt away the wears of the day. The room has a tranquil and yet, dangerous air as we settle into our cool seats. Then all of a sudden, bright lights illuminate a wildly dancing Jessica, grooving to the lively music. She quickly escorts us through her early years in Minnesota, through College, and her first relentlessly boring cubicle job. All of this mundane personal background history leads us into her decision to go to a job fair in Denver for Raytheon, where she discovered the enticement of a position in Antarctica.
Finally arriving, with much excitement and enthusiasm, at her new job at McMurdo Station, Jessica unveils her hopes, fears, and disappointments with the reality of Antarctica. Throughout the 60minutes, Jessica reveals how, even in an exotic place, like the South Pole, although the physical challenges may be extreme, life is routinely banal and “middle-of-the-road,” much like her home in Minnesota.
This high-energy, episodic journey to Antarctica invigorates the adventurer within. Jessica’s quirky physical humor and animated facial expressions make light of the otherwise dismal routine of the support staff on a U.S. science base in the coldest desert on earth. The use of atmospheric sounds and music to complement the scenes seamlessly infiltrates into Jessica’s comedy. Jessica adeptly transforms physically and vocally, from neighborly Minnesota accents to a burley Alaskan sled-dog running Dan, and many others, in her epic chronicles. The strength of THE ANTARCTIC CHRONICLES is in Jessica Manuel’s charming comedic ability to recreate the awkwardness of the circumstances she finds herself in.
The taught direction of Paul Linke, with excellent use of space and levels; Louis Sciarrotta’s atmospheric sound design; and the icy scenic design by Mike Gaglio create a simple, yet unified look to the world of the play. Jessica Manuel controls the stage with such command and dexterity, that you can’t help but be invested in THE ANTARCTIC CHRONICLES.

I caught the final FringeNYC performance of The Antarctic Chronicles at The Players Loft on MacDougal Street.

Billed as a "Factual Frozen Comedy", it's a one woman show by Jessica Manuel about her job as a support employee in the Antartic. Interspersed with music, dancing and some silly videos from her time there, it's a zany story. Jessica told why she decided to go in the first place - living a dull, white break life hoping to live extraordinarily. The arc of her excitement of first arriving in Antarctica to practical madness from the months of cold (-80 below!) and no sunshine is nothing short of hilarity. Jessica is a ball of energy and can really tell a story, complete with the crazy miming of her job assignment in the fuel department to time in the galley.

Not that I ever had any desire to go to Antartica in the first place, now I know I don't need to go thanks to this story that made me feel like I was there - but in a good way. It was a quick hour of stand up comedy - fun and full of laughter. It didn't hurt that the Player's Loft was cooled down to a welcoming antartic feel on such a steamy day.
-Sara B's Adventures

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