Los Angeles Theater Review: TRIASSIC PARQ: THE MUSICAL (Chance Theater in Anaheim Hills)

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by Ella Martin on February 16, 2013

in Theater-Los Angeles,Theater-Regional

FRINGE-O-SAUR

Winner of the Best Musical title at the 2010 FringeNYC, with music by Marshall Pailet and book by Pailet, Bryce Norbitz and Steve Wargo, Triassic Parq: The Musical is a parody which explores the relationship of personal identity to gender, sexuality, and spirituality in the context of a group of female dinosaurs in the scientist-controlled compound of Jurassic Park. A genetic frog mutation allows some of the all-female dinosaur population to become male and tryout their newfound sexuality. The “Mama” of the tribe responds by decreeing immediate exile, while another looks to science on her quest for answers. Faith, allegiance, and selfhood are tested as never before.

Ella MArtin's Stage and Cinema review of TRIASSIC PARQ THE MUSICAL Chance Theater Anaheim HillsIt’s a bizarre but intriguing premise, yet the book fails to do it justice, and the West Coast Premiere currently playing at the Chance Theater in Anaheim is unable to transcend the limitations of the show itself. Pailet, who also directs here as he did in New York, has crafted a divertingly fun rock score, but it is bogged down by book and lyrics heavy on self-aware, self-described “snark” and light on substance.  While the story successfully avoids becoming didactic in its exploration of gender in the dinosaur society, it fails to resonate emotionally and in many ways intellectually. At first glance, it’s hard to tell if the weaknesses of this production are attributable to Pailet’s direction or the musical itself; closer examination, however, confirms the show’s greatest shortcoming is its insurmountably self-conscious book.

The premise of the musical is full of potential: Dinosaurs played like humans, by humans, onstage, grappling with sudden changes to their sexuality. Men play female dinosaurs and two women play female-dinosaurs-that-are-suddenly-turning-male, which gives both male and female actors the opportunity to play out some role reversal.  That said, a concept is not enough to carry a ninety-minute show.  Making matters worse, constant, unrelated comedic asides interrupt the developing story, dulling its impact.

Ella MArtin's Stage and Cinema review of TRIASSIC PARQ THE MUSICAL Chance Theater Anaheim HillsBoth Micaela Martinez (T-Rex 1) and Kellie Spill (T-Rex 2) give bright, energetic performances, with exciting vocal fireworks; Martinez’ unexpected transformation from supportive friend to raging maniac is very well done, and Spill offers a much-needed nuanced emotional journey over the course of the play. Jackson Tobiska (Velociraptor of Faith) offers a perceptive take on motherhood, both spiritual and familial, with a rich voice and outrageous physicality. Keaton Williams (Velociraptor of Innocence) is clearly having fun, but was not able to expose the complete emotional vulnerability that might have helped pull the random strings of a musical which lacks a fundamental sensitivity together into something cohesive. The humor of Camryn Zelinger’s show-opening turn as Morgan Freeman (yes, that Morgan Freeman, the ubiquitous narrator with a “raspy yet soothing” voice) is deadened by poor sensitivity to pace, though her turn as Velociraptor of Science is successfully zany, with particularly riotous exits into a purposefully low-budget cave. All of the actors succeed in their solos and duets, but the big Company numbers (“We are Dinosaurs”) fall flat.

Ella MArtin's Stage and Cinema review of TRIASSIC PARQ THE MUSICAL Chance Theater Anaheim HillsOne character perfectly encapsulates the show’s propensity to create distractions that undermine its ability to say or do something meaningful. Why is Mime-A-Saurus there at all? Alex Bueno is present and committed, but her apparent lack of mime training made the character even more unnecessary.

Anthony Tran’s costumes are bold — with the exception of the inexplicably drab outfit given to the Velociraptor of Innocence — and somehow manage to seem almost tasteful, an impressive accomplishment considering the external genitalia that play such a big part in the show. Kelly Todd’s choreography is crisp but a little too contained. Similarly, Joe Holbrook’s scenic design is interesting, with clever use of movable parts, yet without any grounding “landmarks” begins to feel a bit bare.

Ultimately, it is Pailet’s direction which inadvertently brings the book’s potential weaknesses to the forefront. By not crafting moments of intimacy that unfold authentically between characters, he fails to build a foundation of emotional truth to support the fanciful twists and turns of the story.

The ideas explored are grand and even worthy, but treated cheaply by the book and not fully embodied by this production, they begin to feel irrelevant, which is often the case with works that emante from Fringe Festivals. If Triassic Parq were to commit as wholeheartedly to rising emotional intensity as it does raw sexual passion, it would offer a more satisfying experience.

photos by Doug Catiller, True Image Studio

Triassic Parq: The Musical
Chance Theater in Anaheim Hills
scheduled to end on February 24, 2013
for tickets, call (714) 777-3033 or visit http://www.chancetheater.com

click here for Stage and Cinema’s review of Triassic Parq at SoHo Playhouse Off-Broadway

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