SUR written and directed by Ron Weihs, adapted from the short story by Ursula K. Le Guin, with Angie Doerksen, Amber Godfrey, Sheona McGraw, Maya Nadel, Alicia Payne, Candice Smith and Tim Vant. Artword (75 Portland). Runs to December 14, Tuesday-Saturday 8 pm, matinee Sunday 2:30 pm. $20-$25, Sunday pwyc, stu/srs $15-$20. 416-366-7723. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Sur's compass points due south, to a trip worth taking. Based on an Ursula K. Le Guin story, director Ron Weihs 's script presents a group of South American women who, fascinated by tales of the South Pole, travel there secretly and reach it before the competing male explorers.
It's a simple story, cleverly staged, and has the feel of collective storytelling, the seven performers contributing not only characters but also dance, song and a live soundscape. Musical director Thomas Baker 's percussive use of various parts of a piano adds to the icy, windy atmosphere of the setting, as does designer Judith Sandiford 's gauzy backdrop and disc inscribed with a map of Antarctica.
The material has a feminist thrust, since the six women who embark on the adventure - and that sense of challenge is part of the pole's seduction - have to avoid, by lies or trickery, the men who control them and expect them to be good mothers, wives and churchgoers instead of explorers venturing into the unknown.
Even the sympathetic captain of the Chilean ship that takes them to the edge of the southernmost continent ( Tim Vant plays all the men) suggests they turn the trip into "a lovely holiday" rather than an expedition, and clucks like a worried mother hen when he leaves them.
But Weihs brings the same light touch to the politics that he does to the direction, letting the story and characters take centre stage. The quality of the work by the young actors varies, with the sharpest performances by Amber Godfrey as Juana, the project's instigator, who's determined to reject conventional femininity, Angie Doerksen as the sculptor Berta and Sheona McGraw as Teresa, the most romantic and innocent of the group.