Idiopathic Ridiculopathy Consortium strikes the perfect balance between the hilarious, the unnerving, and the insightful in its outrageously entertaining production of Charles Mee’s PARADISE PARK. With pacing as fast as a rollercoaster ride, 31 vignettes set in an amusement park consider life, relationships, and the overall human condition within the paradise lost of our earthly existence, questionable values, and self-defeating behavior.
But rather than deal head on with the big questions posed (“What do you want?” “What do you think it means?”), the denizens of PARADISE PARK prefer the promise of escapism provided by the mindless entertainments of pop culture and their own incessant chattering. The banality and triviality of these laughably familiar avoidance techniques resonate, as the eccentric characters on Mee’s contemporary ship of fools take refuge from the realities and problems of life, from true communication and rational thought, and from self-awareness and self-acceptance in the theme-park illusion of a perfect world.
IRC’s repertory ensemble (Heather Cole, John D’Alonzo, Michael Dura, Tomas Dura, Colleen Hughes, Robb Hutter, Bob Schmidt, and Tina Brock, who also directs) and two newcomers to the company’s signature ridiculousness (Sean Close and Shamus McCarty) capture all the nonsensical self-delusion and existentialist angst in wildly energetic performances and monologues. Their frenetic attempts to avoid the oppressiveness of the outside world, their own inner turmoil, and the unbearable eventuality of death are equally funny and desperate, and fully in the spirit of Mee’s absurdist script.
Colleen Hughes (Ella) and John D’Alonzo (Jorge) turn in particularly animated performances filled with rapid-fire musings on Freudian-style dream analysis, favorite desserts, and how champagne is poured in England (including a dazzling touch of magic and a giddy grass-is-always-greener mentality). Robb Hutter is especially unsettling and moving in his self-revelatory harangue as Bob, the Pizza Guy, while Tina Brock (Nancy) and Bob Schmidt (Morton) bring emotional nuance and introspection to the acrimonious spouses’ identical soliloquies, delivered first by the wife, and then in a subsequent scene by the husband, who have more thoughts in common than they share with each other.
The design team, too, has done an outstanding job of creating the chaotic sensory overload of our post-modern era, with mood-setting music and sound effects (by Tina Brock), lighting (Josh Schulman), and central video projections (by Michael Long and Anna Kiraly) of Esther Williams, Dairy Queen, and countless other recognizable images from American mass culture—all in perfect synch with the actors. Erica Hoelscher’s costumes reinforce the madcap concepts, with laughably foppish and angelic attire for Jorge, and spot-on dummy costumes and make-up for Charlie (Michael Dura) and Mortimer (Tomas Dura), the antithetical alter-egos of Edgar, the Ventriloquist (also played by Robb Hutter).
As Edgar tells us, “Theatre, properly conceived, is not an escape . . . but a flight to reality, a rehearsal for life itself.” This is what theater of the absurd is all about, and IRC celebrates it in a breakneck 80 minutes of absurdity-with-a-message in PARADISE PARK. You might even recognize an exaggerated version of yourself there.
By Charles Mee
Directed by Tina Brock
February 12-March 3, 2013
Idiopathic Ridiculopathy Consortium
Walnut Street Theatre, Studio 5
825 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106
Latest posts by Debra Miller (see all)
- Catching Up with Costume Designer Millie Hiibel – May 23, 2013
- The Lantern Scores a Huge Victory with HEROES – May 23, 2013
- The Battle of the Sexes Rages in Simpatico’s THE LYSISTRATA PROJECT – May 22, 2013
- STARGIRL at People’s Light: A Parable of Acceptance for Teens – April 26, 2013
- Luna’s FUTUREFEST Envisions the Road Ahead – April 21, 2013