Sunday, March 30, 2008

Paradise Park

Photo/Carol Rosegg

"Listen to me carefully," says the ticket seller, an ominous face peering out from a small slit in the wall. "What do you want?" Benny, his back to the audience, ponders the question, then hesitatingly responds: "I guess I want to escape from my daily life, you know, from the abyss of total meaninglessness that I know lies just beneath my feet at every moment." He needs, in other words, distraction, and that's what Chuck Mee provides in his latest piece, Paradise Park, an unfocused reflection of a run-down America. However, entertainment is nowhere to be found: Mee's collaged writing has never been more jarringly disconnected than here, and even though the original script has thankfully been edited for the Signature stage, it still lacks a center to hold everything together. Mee's idea of love, a silly, childish, but ultimately fulfilling need, doesn't help: Vikram, who is dressed as the park's cloying mouse mascot, is in love with Mortimer, Edgar's dummy; Darling, daughter to the argumentative Morton and Nancy, loves Jorge, a sweetheart with a penchant for stockings; and Benny lusts after Ella, a character who, for all the sense she makes, could've skated in right out of Xanadu. The play, which runs for two intermissionless hours, only occasionally breaks out of Limboland, and that's only when Daniel Fish pulls a sight gag, such as launching fruitcake across the stage or attempting to inflate a castle-bounce in a space that is clearly too small for it. (That's not to say Fish directs this play well: most of the show takes place on a stage lit only by badly projected images, and more than a few actors, particularly Vanessa Aspillaga, seem to have no idea what they're doing.) Paradise Park feels like a work devised by Andy Kauffman; I hope Mee is backstage laughing, because from the audience, we're just prisoners in someone else's imagination.

[Also blogged by: Patrick]

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