Escape from the North Pole | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Escape from the North Pole 

Escape From the North Pole, Factory Theater. Though their roots are in improv, the Factory Theater folks long ago abandoned the world of sketch comedy in favor of full-length 60- to 90-minute plays. Some of these are originals (Being at Choice) while others are verbatim send-ups of popular or cult films: Reefer Madness and Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. But Escape From the North Pole is both. This marvelously bitter antiholiday show spoofs John Carpenter's 1981 sci-fi flick Escape From New York, but here it's the North Pole, not New York City, that's been turned into a maximum security prison, and it's the pope, not the president, who must be saved from this hellhole.

Under Nick Digilio's direction, an adept ensemble of Factory regulars transforms what could have been an exercise in paint-by-numbers satire into richly layered comedy, poking fun not only at Kurt Russell's bad acting and Adrienne Barbeau's frighteningly large breasts (Amy Seeley should get a Jeff for her hilarious impersonation) but also at organized religion, action adventure movies in general, and the whole damned Santa Claus thing. Indeed, for those of us who can't wait for the holiday cheer to be over, this play is filled with twisted versions of holiday cliches: sleigh rides that turn into shoot-outs, sweet elves who turn out to be sadists, and a slovenly Santa who curses almost as often as the potty-mouthed pontiff.

--Jack Helbig

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