Footprints of the Polar Bear & Other Eco-Centric Plays

By Andrew Andrews

Fred (Monty Renfrow) tries to talk to Jack (Ken Coughlin) off the top of a bridge in Phil Paradis's Footprints of the Polar Bear, one of five eco-centric one-act plays performed together at American Theatre of Actors.

In Footprints of the Polar Bear, a homeless man named Jack who goes by the name Polar Bear lectures passers-by about the dangers of climate change, particularly concerned for the creatures that inhabit the arctic.

When he climbs to the top of a bridge to escape the crowds and find peace to meditate, somebody calls 9-1-1 believing it’s a suicide attempt, and a firefighter named Fred appears to try to talk him down.

During this mini-festival at the American Theatre of Actors, this two-scene play is preceded by four other short, “eco-centric” one act plays:

A grandfather and his grandson bond as they search for The Perfect Place to plant a sapling tree.

Opposing sides present different viewpoints on an oil spill cleanup during a television broadcast of Breaking Gulf News.

A simple man explains that natural disasters prove the Creator’s wrath against General Motors in the darkly comic God is a Ford Man.

Lastly, in the experimental tale Natural Rarities Up For Bid, the richest man in the world purchases jars of water sealed in the early 1900s at auction in the year 2184.

Although more serious than its predecessors, Footprints of the Polar Bear is the highlight of this series.

The actors are well-cast and do a fine job with their roles, and the simple props and scenery—typical of a show at the Sargent Theatre—are adequate to set the mood, thanks in particular to the ever-present city noises serving as a soundtrack.

Even though this is a short play, the first scene felt a bit too long and repetitive. The divergence of Jack’s diatribe from global warming to American politics in general was realistic but a bit unnecessary for the story.

The final scene was very engaging, and it would be interesting to see this story expanded into a full-length production.

The four shorter plays that accompanied Footprints were of varying quality: The Perfect Place seemed like it was written by a middle school student, but I enjoyed the experimental aspects of Natural Rarities Up For Bid. Breaking Gulf News and God is a Ford Man both had their moments but could use a little more polish.


Andrew Andrews attended Footprints of the Polar Bear & Other Eco-Centric Plays at American Theatre of Actors Sargent Theater in Manhattan on Wednesday, November 13, 2019 @ 8:00pm to write this review.