Powerful TERRA NOVA at Actors’NET of Bucks County

by Robert Beizer

In a cold tent on the frozen Antarctic wasteland, members of British explorer Robert Falcon Scott’s team (left to right, Corey Stradling, Robert D. Rodriguez, Tim Tolen and Chris Capitolo) try to find warmth by their small stove in Actors'NET of Bucks County's TERRA NOVA.

Actors’NET of Bucks County in Morrisville, PA, presents TERRA NOVA by Ted Tally, March 2-25, 2012 at The Heritage Center. The play is based on the actual events which occurred during the Terra Nova South Pole Expedition of 1910-1912 (officially the British Antarctic Expedition 1910), led, for the British, by explorer Robert Falcon Scott.

Scott was an experienced polar commander, having previously led the Discovery Expedition to the Antarctic in 1901–04. The Terra Nova Expedition, named after its supply ship, was a private venture, financed by public contributions augmented by a government grant.

The play is a literal nail-biter. TERRA NOVA is written by Ted Tally who wrote the screenplays for “The Silence of The Lambs” and the final film in that series. It demonstrates his gift for macabre and dry humor reminiscent of Hannibal Lechter. TERRA NOVA deals with issues of heroism, patriotism and national pride. The exploration of the poles was the early 20th century’s “New Frontier”.

The year 1912 would prove in hindsight to be a year of exulted exploration and the terrible side effects of human hubris and overreach in this expedition and the sailing of the ill-fated “Titanic”.

British explorer Robert Falcon Scott (Michael Wurzel, left), facing obstacles that will doom his expedition to the South Pole, in an imagined conversation with Roald Amundsen (DeLarme Landes),

The play opens with what appears to be an old-time Magic Lantern Show revealing preparations for the trip, the ship to be used, the men en route and the starkness of the never ending gleaming white polar terrain.

The occasion is a meeting of The Royal Society, to which Scott has been invited to discuss his new discoveries.  The Master of Ceremonies for the Society turns out to be the Norwegian Amundsen, who had mounted a concurrent expedition to the pole in direct competition to Scott. DeLarme Landes, as Amundsen, brings a mysterious intensity to his portrayal.

Cat Miller portrays Kathleen, Scott’s wife, in scenes which seem to be a combination of memory and hallucination for Scott.  Ms Miller more than holds her own in this otherwise male cast.

We discover Scott bundled against the cold writing in his diary – which would become his legacy to posterity. Michael Wurzel is thoroughly convincing as Scott as are the members of his expeditionary group Chris Capitolo as Wilson, Robert D. Rodriguez as Bowers, Corey Stradling as Evans and Tim Tolen as Oates.

The Scott expedition goes from hope and promise to failure (reaching the pole after the Norwegians) and disaster.  The playwright uses flashback, delusion and hallucination to keep the audience off balance throughout the play.

British explorer Robert Falcon Scott (Michael Wurzel), remembers a moment of comfort with his wife, Kathleen (Cat Miller) in a scene from TERRA NOVA, running at Actors'NET of Bucks County.

The set design by director Mark Versprille is a study in simple power. The set is enhanced by the evocative lighting design by Jack Bathke. Corey Stradling creates a sound design which makes you feel the wind raging around the encampment. The Magic Lantern sequences and other special effects were created by Brian Dugan. Costume design by Cheryl Doyle and J.J. Newberry.

TERRA NOVA is highly recommended for its power, and its reminder of the limits of Man vs Nature.

by Ted Tally
Directed by Mark Versprille
March 2-25, 2012
The Actors’NET of Bucks County
635 N. Delmorr Ave (Route 32)
Morrisville, PA 19067
Tickets: 215-295-3694


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