By Toby Zinman
For the Inquirer
Death by whimsy: not a pretty way to go. Idiopathic Ridiculopathy Consortium’s unbearably cloying production of Paradise Park, bludgeons us for eighty-five very long minutes with cliché after cliché, as adolescent philosophizing monologues alternate with inane dance sequences and pointless pratt falls.
Written by Charles Mee, a prolific and undeservedly popular contemporary playwright, Paradise Park takes place in a Disneyland of the mind: you can go to England, or the beach, or the Grand Canyon, or the back porch, or the forest, or etc etc etc. Could this be a metaphor? Is everything (gasp!) an illusion?
A young man (Shamus Hunter McCarty) buys a ticket to enter, meets a ventriloquist (Robb Hutter) with two dummies (Tomas Dura and Michael Dura), apparently representing a split personality. He falls for a girl (Colleen Hughes) whose dysfunctional parents (Tina Brock and Bob Schmidt) are desperate to get away from each other. Their daughter (Heather Cole) falls for a man (John D’Alonzo) who may be gay or who may be an angel but who definitely talks too loudly.
Much of the set (designed by Anna Kiraly) depends on film projected onto the upstage wall: water ballet, horses running, all kinds of stuff that lacks any visual interest and is as trite as the language.
Here’s a sample of the dialogue from the Ventriloquist (could this, gasp! be a metaphor for the playwright who makes his dummies talk?): “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….” See what I mean?
IRC needs to remind itself that Theatre of the Absurd, the company’s declared mission, is a serious and not a silly business; that its laughs come from bitter recognitions of life’s absurdities, not from stupid fish masks and rat costumes and pretentious pronouncements about the Nature of Love, the Difficulties of Parenthood, and Theatre as Art.
Idiopathic Ridiculopathy Consortium at Walnut Street Theatre, Studio 5, 9th & Walnut Sts. Through March 3. Tickets $20-25. Information: 215-285-0472 or www.idiopathicridiculopathyconsortium.org