REVIEWSTheatre ReviewsTom Williams

The Franklin Expedition

Created by The Building Stage

the franklin expedition by the building stage

Conceived and directed by Blake Montgomery

Developed and performed by David Amaral, Pamela Maurer,

Chris Pomeroy, Joh Stutzman and Leah Urzendowski

At The Building Stage, Chicago

Conceptualized experimental staging renders mixed results and muddled storytelling.

Blake Montgomery and the folks at The Building Stage love to start with an idea – a concept of what a show is about- – here The Franklin Expedition. The director ( Montgomery) and the players immerse themselves in research and source materials, playing day by day to find their way into the world and its characters seeking the scenes that unifies the story thus allowing the audience to share in the journey. This is pure experimental theatre with all its pitfalls.

the franklin expedition by the building stage

There are some interesting experiments going on here such as having all five cast members playing Captain Franklin at one time or another. Three men and one of the women present Franklin most of the time from their own perspective with each cheering or commenting on how that Franklin did a scene. Unfortunately, repetition together with too many long pauses caused the action to drag on making a 90 minute show seem much longer.

the franklin expedition by the building stage

British Captain Franklin and his crew of 128 men all died in 1847 after being frozen in the Arctic waters in Canada while charting the Northwest Passage.  The show is “a slightly delusional, historically inaccurate, fragmented portrait of a lost explorer.”

The use of period English folk music and the gender bending character switches had their moments especially when Leah Urzendowski played Queen Victoria and David Amaral player her aid Barrow as he attempted to eulogize Franklin. This improv moment was a hoot. There were other fine scenes and telling moments in this show but the long pauses and the repetitiousness made for too many tedious moments.

Once these skilled artists tighten-up and eliminate those dreadful pauses, The Franklin Experiment will emerge as a interesting theatrical event. The ingredients and talent are there for a worthy piece of story telling. I’m sure my minor quibbles will be corrected and the sheer talent of the players will payoff. I admire and encourage theatre artists to take changes, to try new things and to let their imaginations dictate their actions. Much creativity of that sort is happening in The Franklin Expedition – bravo!

David Amaral, Pamela Maurer, Chris Pomeroy, Jon Stutzman and Leah Urzendowski together with Blake Montgomery have the skills to mount a unique show.  Give this experiment a try.


Tom Williams

At The Building Stage, 412 N. Carpentar Street, Chicago, IL

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