Monday, June 15, 2015

Opinions differ on TRIASSIC PARQ THE MUSICAL at Blank Canvas

--> As I sat shaking my head in disbelief of what I was seeing and hearing on the Blank Canvas Theatre stage, those around me were howling with uncontrollable laughter.  What I was seeing was ridiculous, unbelievable, and basically poorly performed.  I’m not sure what was making my audience-mates laugh so hard,  but I heard one of the young ladies behind me confide that she had just wet her pants and then I got sprayed by a shower of beer that came forth from her companion’s nose as he exploded in laughter.

We are all being exposed to TRIASSIC PARQ, THE MUSICAL (“a musical 65 million years in the making”), winner of the best musical at the 2010 New York Fringe Festival.  That’s TRIASSIC PARQ, not JURASSIC PARK, the 1993 movie or its 2015 sequel. 

We had been told at the start of this epic that the authors of the musical, (book and lyrics by Marshall Palet, Bryce Norbitz and Steve Wargo), even though this story, as does the movie, takes place at a theme park centering on dinosaurs, they  couldn’t use the “other name” because they would get sued. 

Believe me, from my perspective, the developers of the musical could well be sued for unusual and cruel punishment to my psyche and fractured ear drums, but, that’s just my opinion.  An opinion obviously not shared by most of the rest of the audience.  Maybe it’s a generational thing.  “They” were all in their upper-teens and twenties, not a gray head in the place.  I, on the other hand, was around when the dinosaurs roamed the earth.

The advance billing indicates that TRIASSIC PARQ follows a group of cloned dinosaurs as they unearth the very foundations of their existence.  Morality, faith, science, gender identity, and interspecies fornication are all explored, and sung about by the narrator who talks of love, loss, and resurrected reptiles.  The only thing missing from that explanation is the indication that right before our eyes two of the female dinosaurs grew penises, and there is lots of high decibel rock music blaring and simplistically rhyming lyrics sung at full volume, often off-key. (Music by Marshall Palet).

Why the blaring music had to be amplified in the tiny Blank Canvas Theatre, I’ll never know.  It overrides the singing voices, so the actors could be intoning nonsense syllables, for all the meaning that they projected.

It’s the next day, and my ears are still ringing.  My daughter, an audiologist, is ministering to more and more twenty and thirty year-olds who are basically deaf due to attending loud concerts and blasting their iPods into their fragile ear area, and going to venues like this that think more volume is better.

The show tells the story of the film JURRASIC PARK from the stand point of the dinosaurs.  As one of the authors states, "It is completely bonkers. We all know what happened to the humans in the movie, but in TRIASSIC PARQ we find out what the dinosaurs in the movie were so pissed off about."  The “what” behind the dinosaur revolt is spontaneous sex change.  The author continues, “It’s not supposed to be a parody. It's a genuine attempt to create a parallel story about science, faith and acceptance with anthropomorphized singing-and-dancing dinosaurs in a glam/punk rock setting.”

We are informed that the dinosaurs in the Parq were created all female so they wouldn’t breed, but do have a small percentage of frog DNA which means they can switch gender.  Suddenly, the Parq’s inhabitants become confused when a T. rex develops a mysterious new front appendage and a strong compulsion to mate with young velociraptor.  From here on, all hell breaks loose as dinosaur’s try to escape, are killed, and mate.  (I swear.  I couldn’t make this stuff up.)

The Blank Canvas cast works exceedingly hard.  The fact that the theatre only has three rows which wrap around the thrust stage allows for up-close and personal views of the sweat flowing off the performers.  The voices go all the way from Kate Leigh Michalski’s full blown diva power to several cast members who are constantly vocally flat.  The highpoint numbers are ‘Love Me As A Friend,’ by Michalski (T-Rex 1) and Neely Gevaart (T-Rex 2), and the rap number “Science” intoned by Eryn Reynolds.

The acting, like the singing ranges from excellent to bland.  Michael Crowley did a nice job as the narrator. 

CAPSULE JUDGMENT: As evidenced by the response of the audience present when I saw the production, it’s obvious that director, Pat Ciamacco succeeded in pulling out all the shticks to make this absurdity work.  His targeted audience of young, hip, lovers of off-beat stuff should love TRIASSIC PARQ.  The rest of us will have to try and remember what it was like to be young and na├»ve about what good story plots with music that backed up, rather than drowned out the singers, and singers who sang lyrics that helped move the plot along, were all about.

Blank Canvas’s  TRIASSIC PARQ runs through June 27, 2015 in its west side theatre, 1305 West 78th Street, Suite 211, Cleveland.  Get directions to the theatre on the website.  (My GPS was of little help).  Once you arrive at the site, go around the first building to find the entrance and then follow the signs to the second floor acting space.  It’s an adventurous battle. For tickets and directions go to www.blankcanvasthetre.com

Blank Canvas’s next show is Thornton Wilder’s OUR TOWN, the script that many believe is the greatest of all American plays.  Ciamacco has assured me that this production will be true to the author’s intent and purpose.