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Stage Raw: Paradise Park

Stage Raw: Paradise Park

Theater FEATURE on Happy Ending and Water

NEW REVIEW GO

  PARADISE PARK


Stage Raw: Paradise Park

Photo by Paul Rubenstein

A profoundly despondent fellow (Kenneth Rudnicki) wanders into an

amusement park for distraction from his agony. Inside, he slips into a

fantasia of scenes - including his own romance with a young woman (Reha

Zemani) from the Midwest, igniting a bundle of neuroses that keeps them

estranged;  a ventriloquist/philosopher (Ann Stocking) and his

bifurcated dummy (David E. Frank); a tourist couple (Bo Roberts and

Cynthia Mance) at the end of the tether that's barely holding their

marriage together; their irate young daughter (KC Wright) who yearns,

in vain, for an effete Cuban (Tim Orona); a psychotic pizza-delivery

boy (Jeff Atik);  a wandering violinist (Lena Kouyoumdjian); a circus

clown (Troy Dunn) and, in a directorial flourish, a guy in a chicken

costume. Charles Mee's comedy is like a sonnet with a couple of

repeated motifs: distraction, love and the general feeling of being

cast adrift in cultural waters that are partly enchanting, partly

evaporating, and partly polluted by the refuse of our ancestors, of our

families, of our determination to follow impulses we barely comprehend,

and to wind up unutterably lost. He's one of this company's favorite

scribes, and mine, for the way in which, with the literary touch of a

feather, he conjures primal truths of what keeps us at odds with

ourselves and with eachother, keeps us yearning for the unattainable.

And though there's obviously psychology at work, the driving energy of

the language and of the drama are subconscious, cultural and historical

currents. Production designer Charles Duncombe  anchors his platform

set with a wading pool stage center, in which sits an alligator, and he

decorates it above with strings of festival lights on a string.

Josephine Poinsot's costumes are thoroughly whimsical with primary

colors and a feel for an America of the late 1950s - with the possible

of exception of the married couple's matching shorts and T-shirts that

read, "Kiss my ass, I'm on vacation."  Director Frederique Michel

stages the poetical riffs of text in her typically arch style, and it

serves the play almost perfectly, except for the pizza delivery scene,

where the choreography distracts from the psychosis that lies at the

core. Even so, I found the evening to be indescribably affecting,

tapping emotions that lurk beneath the machinery of reason. This is the

last production to be staged at this back-alley venue in Santa Monica,

where the company has been putting on plays for 15 years. The

ventriloquist's lines couldn't have been more ironic and true: "Then,

because the theatre is the art form that deals above all others in

human relationships, then theatre is the art, par excellence, in which

we discover what it is to be human and what is possible for humans to

be . . . that theatre, properly conceived, is not an escape either but

a flight to reality, a rehearsal for life itself, a rehearsal of these

human relationships of which the most essential, the relationship that

defines most vividly who we are and that makes our lives possible, is

love."  City Garage, 1340 1/2 Fourth St., Santa Monica; Fri.-Sat., 8

p.m.; Sun., 5:30 p.m.; thru Nov. 7. (310) 319-9939. (Steven Leigh

Morris)

For all NEW REVIEWS seen over the weekend, press the More tab directly below:

NEW THEATER REVIEWS (scheduled for publication September 24, 2010):

NEW REVIEW THE BIRTHDAY BOYS

Stage Raw: Paradise Park

Photo by Melissa McCormack

Humor a la Joad comes to Burbank in this revival of a parodic hybrid between two of John Steinbeck's best-known novels, The Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men. Written by Doug Armstrong, Keith Cooper and Tom Willmorth, the plotline is loosely that of The Grapes of Wrath, following Tom Joad (Ian Vogt) the Joad family on their trek from Oklahoma to California during the Great Depression.  The primary additions from Of Mice and Men are the characters of Lenny (David Reynolds), Candy (David Ghilardi), and Curly (Kimberly Van Luin).  Director Paul Stroili, part of the original 1990 Chicago cast, lets his actors go full bore into an over-the-top campiness that winks heavily at the gritty realism of the source material.  The self-made frontier ethos is particularly lampooned in a production that gets mileage from both the sly anachronistic jokes in the script and the gusto with which the cast tackles them.  Casey Kramer, as Ma Joad, has some particularly hilarious rants, as does Lauren McCormack, who plays the womanizing preacher Jim Casy.  Reynolds portrays dim-witted Lenny with such earnestness that we can't help but like him, and Ghilardi (who plays four roles) and Jen Ray (playing both a bulldozer driver and a waitress) showcase their versatility.  Even David George's wooden grape crate of a set is comical, providing an appropriate backdrop to a show that puts the "funny" in the "bone" dry Dust Bowl.  The Little Vic Theatre at The Victory Theatre Center, 3326 W. Victory Blvd., Burbank; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 4 p.m.; thru October 24. (818) 623-6666.  www.seaglasstheatre.org  A Sea Glass Theatre production (Mayank Keshaviah)     

NEW REVIEW GO  PARADISE PARK

Stage Raw: Paradise Park

Photo by Paul Rubenstein

A profoundly despondent fellow (Kenneth Rudnicki) wanders into an

amusement park for distraction from his agony. Inside, he slips into a

fantasia of scenes - including his own romance with a young woman (Reha

Zemani) from the Midwest, igniting a bundle of neuroses that keeps them

estranged;  a ventriloquist/philosopher (Ann Stocking) and his

bifurcated dummy (David E. Frank); a tourist couple (Bo Roberts and

Cynthia Mance) at the end of the tether that's barely holding their

marriage together; their irate young daughter (KC Wright) who yearns,

in vain, for an effete Cuban (Tim Orona); a psychotic pizza-delivery

boy (Jeff Atik);  a wandering violinist (Lena Kouyoumdjian); a circus

clown (Troy Dunn) and, in a directorial flourish, a guy in a chicken

costume. Charles Mee's comedy is like a sonnet with a couple of

repeated motifs: distraction, love and the general feeling of being

cast adrift in cultural waters that are partly enchanting, partly

evaporating, and partly polluted by the refuse of our ancestors, of our

families, of our determination to follow impulses we barely comprehend,

and to wind up unutterably lost. He's one of this company's favorite

scribes, and mine, for the way in which, with the literary touch of a

feather, he conjures primal truths of what keeps us at odds with

ourselves and with eachother, keeps us yearning for the unattainable.

And though there's obviously psychology at work, the driving energy of

the language and of the drama are subconscious, cultural and historical

currents. Production designer Charles Duncombe  anchors his platform

set with a wading pool stage center, in which sits an alligator, and he

decorates it above with strings of festival lights on a string.

Josephine Poinsot's costumes are thoroughly whimsical with primary

colors and a feel for an America of the late 1950s - with the possible

of exception of the married couple's matching shorts and T-shirts that

read, "Kiss my ass, I'm on vacation."  Director Frederique Michel

stages the poetical riffs of text in her typically arch style, and it

serves the play almost perfectly, except for the pizza delivery scene,

where the choreography distracts from the psychosis that lies at the

core. Even so, I found the evening to be indescribably affecting,

tapping emotions that lurk beneath the machinery of reason. This is the

last production to be staged at this back-alley venue in Santa Monica,

where the company has been putting on plays for 15 years. The

ventriloquist's lines couldn't have been more ironic and true: "Then,

because the theatre is the art form that deals above all others in

human relationships, then theatre is the art, par excellence, in which

we discover what it is to be human and what is possible for humans to

be . . . that theatre, properly conceived, is not an escape either but

a flight to reality, a rehearsal for life itself, a rehearsal of these

human relationships of which the most essential, the relationship that

defines most vividly who we are and that makes our lives possible, is

love."  City Garage, 1340 1/2 Fourth St., Santa Monica; Fri.-Sat., 8

p.m.; Sun., 5:30 p.m.; thru Nov. 7. (310) 319-9939. (Steven Leigh

Morris)


NEW REVIEW PIECES OF ME

Stage Raw: Paradise Park

Photo by Lisa Gallo

This paranoid fantasy by Michael John Garcės tells a wildly baroque tale of identity theft. New Yorker Chris Quinones (Ian Forester) discovers, while trolling the internet, that there is another Chris Quinones out there, whose story and vital statistics are almost identical to his own. Suddenly he's being harassed and questioned by two mysterious men, Kepesh (Edgar Landa, who choreographed the brutal fight scenes) and Warner (Justin Huen, who  doubles effectively as a super-sadistic Paraguayan thug), who apparently think he's the other Chris. They're also hassling his best friend (Tony Sancho) and his girl-friend (Betsy Reisz). Meanwhile, his apartment is invaded by Arrowsmith (Stan Kelly), who claims to be working for the FBI, NYPD, and the CIA. Arrowsmith saddles Chris with a mysterious, wounded femme fatale (Amanda Zarr), and a very large gun, and Chris finds himself renditioned to Paraguay, in the midst of a drug war. Nothing is what it seems, and contradictions breed like rabbits. For a while it seems Garcės is simply indulging in obfuscation for its own sake, but eventually things start to add up. Director Alyson Roux has assembled a top-notch, energetic cast, and deploys them with speed and precision. All tech credits are excellent. Art/Works Theater, 6567 Santa Monica Boulevard, Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 5 p.m., thru October 17. Produced by Needtheater. (323) 795-2215 or  needtheater.org (Neal Weaver)


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