Saturday, August 1, 2015





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


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About this blog

Toby Zinman's night job since 2006 is theater critic for the Inquirer where she reviews New York and London as well as Philadelphia. Her day job: Prize-winning prof at UArts, author of five books about modern and contemporary drama, and doer of scholarly deeds (winner of five NEH grants, Fulbright lecturer at Tel Aviv University, visiting professor in China). She was recently named by American Theatre magazine "one of the twelve most influential critics in America."

Wendy Rosenfield has written freelance features and theater reviews for The Inquirer since 2006. She was theater critic for the Philadelphia Weekly from 1995 to 2001, after which she enjoyed a five-year baby-raising sabbatical. She serves on the board of the American Theatre Critics Association, was a participant in the Bennington Writer's Workshop, a 2008 NEA/USC Fellow in Theater and Musical Theater, and twice was guest critic for the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival's Region II National Critics Institute. She received her B.A. from Bennington College and her M.L.A. from the University of Pennsylvania. She also is a fiction writer, was proofreader to a swami, publications editor for the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, and spends all her free time working out and driving people places. Follow her on Twitter @WendyRosenfield.

Jim Rutter has reviewed theater for The Inquirer since September, 2011. Since 2006, he covered dance, theater and opera for the Broad Street Review, and has also written for many suburban newspapers, including The Main Line Times. In 2009, the National Endowment for the Arts awarded him a Fellowship in Arts Journalism. Thames & Hudson released his updated and revised version of Ballet and Modern Dance in June, 2012. From 1998 to 2005, he taught philosophy and logic at Drexel, and then Widener University. He also coaches Olympic Weightlifting for Liberty Barbell, and has competed at the national level in that sport since 2001.

Merilyn Jackson regularly writes on dance for The Inquirer and other publications. She specializes in the arts, literature, food, travel, and Eastern European culture and politics. In 2001, she was dance critic in residence at the Festival of Contemporary Dance in Bytom, Poland; in 2005, she received an NEA Critics’ Fellowship to Duke University’s Institute for Dance Criticism. She likes to say that dance was her first love but that when she discovered writing she began to cheat on dance. Now that she writes about dance, she’s made an honest woman of herself, although she also writes poetry.

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