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Directed by Gary Shrader
Presented by Blue Coyote Theater Group
380 Broadway, just north of White St.
Opened Feb. 6, 2006
Wed. thru Sun 8 p.m.
$15 (212) 868-4444 or www.smarttix.com
Closes Feb. 26, 2006
Reviewed by Paulanne Simmons Feb. 6, 2006
Fifteen or so minutes into David Foley's "Paradise," you can't help but feel you've been to the play before. This is odd because Blue Coyote Theater Group's production is the play's New York premiere. Then you realize the reason the play seems so familiar is that you've heard just about every sentence and seen most of these characters at least once before.
With such clichéd material to work with, it's hard to tell whether director Gary Shrader could have done much to save the play. It's also not easy to determine whether the actors could have wrung some meaning out of the words they are saying or given some depth to the characters they are portraying.
But a poor script cannot be blamed entirely for poor acting. And even stale dialogue cannot account for the stiffness of its delivery.
Paradise is about three Manhattan couples. Robbie (Brandon Wolcott) and Carlos (Joseph Melendez) are gay. Betty (Tracey Gilbert) and Stu (Robert Buckwalter) are Jewish. Portia (Jonna McElrath) and Phil (Bruce Barton) are constantly bickering. There's also a faithless husband, his unhappy wife and their innocent daughter ( Gregory Northrop, Nathalie Altman and Linda Lana Marks) acting out their own story upstage, and a pedophile priest ( Tom Ligon) who tells bad jokes but is otherwise useless.
The characters act with no motivation other than the playwright's desire to make a point. This seems to have something to do with good, evil, the Catholic Church and (as the title indicates) getting to heaven. But it's not clear what Foley's take is on all this.
Despite its violence and unhappy ending, much of Paradise is intended to elicit a smile, if not a genuine chuckle. But why is Portia so bitchy? Is Phil a closet homosexual? Why is Betty so insecure about Stu's love? What does Carlos see in the morose Robbie? Is there a reason why they have such violent sex? And why is the priest in the play at all?
None of these issues are resolved. And the play's ending, intended to make sense of everything that happened before, is simplistic, silly and leaves more questions unanswered than answered.
Paradise is the kind of play that is sometimes called provocative, a drama that explores the dark recesses of the human soul searching for salvation. There's a better word for this kind of play. And it's got something to do with bulls.
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