For once, a play's tagline is accurate: this drama-on-ice is pitched as "a woman, a man and a penguin" - and they're not kidding about the penguin.

He is the silent star character of this physical show, not some cuddly mascot but rather a point of contention between scientist lovers as they spend a winter together, alone, in Antarctica.

Byron Coll, naked save for some black and white paint and knee pads, is impressively brave and - even better - is committed and convincing as said penguin.

He has the bird's shaking-head, gaping-mouth and flapping-wing mannerisms down pat.

But even without a penguin to chase your partner up on to the top bunk, how many relationships could survive the claustrophobia of a small hut in the endless dark?

Playwright Lynda Chanwai-Earle has painted hell, frozen over - isolation with no escape from your other half. And no privacy either.

A running gag has the couple (Kate Prior and Simon Vincent) forgetting to turn off their webcam, thereby broadcasting their bedroom antics to 50 primary schools.

Yet Chanwai-Earle doesn't trust the intrinsic drama of her bickering bunker set-up; instead she gives the couple an unnecessary poignant backstory, which is neither original nor detailed.

Still, the unfolding situation holds a morbid fascination, and audience sympathy swaps from one character to another to none to all.

Both Prior and Vincent throw themselves into their parts with credibility and vitality, and director David O'Donnell makes all three actors work vigorously - dressing and undressing, seizing each other bodily.

Eerie, icicle harp notes give way to scraping and rumbling in Gareth Farr's soundtrack, dramatic even in some of the lighter moments.

Although the plot calls for the characters to be casual about leaving the door open in sub-zero temperatures, the realism of Brian King's set works (a sunshiny poster recommends "summer loving"; a bucket labelled "poos" sits next to one labelled "wees").

The whole Wellington-based production is powered by a windmill and four solar panels, thanks to Marcus McShane's eco-friendly (and again, realist) lighting design.

Heat is slight, but at $25, it's worth it for the penguin.