Before I begin; I have had a long history with the Paper Wing Theatre Company. I have performed with, directed, and written for several projects with the company and several performers involved with this production. I currently have a play entered in their “Play Reading Series” and have competed since the first year of the competition. I was invited to attend a preview performance of Triassic Parq: The Musical a few nights before the public opening. The conditions of my attendance were that I would write this particular disclaimer that would detail my relationship with the theater.
** END DISCLAIMER **
Okay, now if this is your first time to my blog then you need to know a little something about me; I am one weird dude. Take a gander around the blog, look at the things I write about, look at the movies I watch, and the plays that I talk about, and you will see the ramblings of a consistently strange guy who enjoys entertainment off the beaten path. So when they announced Paper Wing Theatre’s production schedule for 2018, I’m going to be honest- the only production that really rang my bell from the get-go was the announcement of Triassic Parq. Not even kidding. The other shows? Some sounded okay and I would probably attend more of them then I would miss, but the truth is that I was kind of burned out and needed a long break from the theater community. But this show was a freaking beacon of weird!
The general premise is that we are going to see the events of a familiar film but flip the script and tell the story from the point of view of the dinosaurs. It was going to be a musical. It was going to be about the sudden and inevitable change in the social structure of the creatures when one suddenly changes their sex and the dinosaurs are now able to procreate. It was going to be a musical. There was going to be a MUTHAFUCKIN’ T-REX! I’m already all in the bag for the concept so my tickets are already bought and paid for, take my money, sit me down, bring down the lights, and start the show. This is what I want theater to be; Bold, creative, raw, original, and off the beaten mainstream path.
But that right there is the hype machine and that’s the easy part- the question is whether or not it delivers the goods. And that, my dear faceless reader, is where we really begin our little “review”… It always feels weird to me to use that dry and flavorless term to what I generally tend to write. But this is actually and precisely what I am setting out to do on this particular occasion. Because that’s why I was invited to the show- to review it.
Are you buckled in?
I feel like a junkie getting his fix.
The pop-rock styled musical follows in the vein of The Rocky Horror Show, Silence!: the Musical, and Batboy. Marshall Pailet’s music is brought to life by a capable four piece rock band (Piano, Bass, Guitar, and Drums) led by Pianosaurus (Taylor Safina), an often referred to and interacted with member of the dinosaur community. The book is by Pailet, Bryce Norbits, and Steve Wargo.
Triassic Parq opens with a pounding, driving beat that calls to mind the stomp of an approaching T-Rex. We are welcomed by scientists responsible for the creation of our lead characters. We open with a few key pieces of knowledge- The dinosaurs are part of a theme park. They were created in a lab. One percent of their DNA was derived from a species of frog and that should in NO WAY have any sort of an effect on the story. All of the dinosaurs are created female so there is no chance that they can reproduce on their own. The dinosaurs soon answer to a roll call from our erstwhile narrator, Morgan Freeman (Kelsey Posey). The Velociraptor of Faith; Pastor-Mama (Nicholas Kelley), Katelyn the T-Rex 1(Kate Faber), T-Rex 2 (Erin Davison), the Mime-asaurus (Justin Azevedo), and our central protagonist, The Velociraptor of Innocence (Brian Balestrieri). They are a community living in relative peace under the watchful care of their deity, The Lab. They are fed, they are created, and they are cared for by the mysterious ways of The Lab and only Pastor Mama-saurus, a Raptor of superior intellect, is able to decipher the mysterious ways in which The Lab would prefer the dinosaurs to live.
Things go awry when one of the dinosaurs takes ill and develops a distinct feature, when that which once went “in” is now protruding outward. With such a change comes an explosive panic amongst the community. Pastor Mama demands that the dinosaur be exiled, other dinosaurs demand answers, and it’s ultimately up to our hero to seek out the long ago banished Raptor of Science (Kelsey Posey, once again). And then hilarity fucking ensues!
Balriesteri is perfect in his portrayal of the young Raptor, his movements a precise echo of the signature stride and curious head tilts of those from a familiar film. He has a clear voice and his growth from naïve innocent to defiant rebel is a clear fable to explore questions about religion, science, social gender dynamics, and even gender identity. But while his journey guides us through the complex dynamics of opposing philosophies, we are drawn to the emotional weight of our two T-Rex’s left to work through complex emotional attachments and growing feelings both find incredibly strange. It’s difficult to express the performances of both Kate and Erin without spoiling the details, suffice to say that both tackle their performances with the skill and expertise of their craft that they have always brought to the stage.
Piano-saurus and Mime-a-Saurus are both hilarious additions to the cast, adding supportive gags to the hilarity onstage. There’s even some interaction with the erstwhile stage crew, some of whom come to feed the dinosaurs. Even a puppet goat, a familiar face for fans of the Jurassic Park series, gets in on the action with a beautiful duet by it and the Raptor of Faith.
But I would definitely be remiss to not mention the dual performance by Kelsey Posey, who absolutely STUNS as both Morgan Freeman (Our narrator of the evening) and the slightly mad Velociraptor of Science. Her manic energy and leaping strides truly captures the familial bond of the three Raptors. She is driven by a thirst for knowledge and an insatiable curiosity of forbidden lore. She hits an hilariously over the top Rap duet with Balistrieri (No stranger to the genre with several independently released albums under his belt as Trip B) on the nature and purpose of SCIENCE!!!
10 out of 10 and my favorite show of the year!!!