A Brooklyn warehouse becomes a 1970 s tropical resort in a sensuous Third Rail stage production that aims for submersion but ultimately feels forced
How quickly an debauchery can pall.
Thats one of the astonishes of The Grand Paradise, an enthusiastic if not always engaging exercise in theatrical submersion.
A production of Third rail, which also generated the successful Victorian pastiche Then She Fell, The Grand Paradise is set in a louche tropical resort in the late 1970 s. A local answer to the popular importation Sleep No More, it attempts to work stage magical with a smaller space, cast, and budget though with a apparently limitless supplying of gold lame and coconut shells.
The evening begins promisingly with a short video in the style of a flight safety proclamation, a ritual garlanding with plastic leis, and an introduction to a former Brooklyn warehouse now entirely transformed via ersatz blooms, plaster rock formations, secluded cabanas, and flowing water. Its diverting to investigate its crannies and sift through period-appropriate props. Shut doors tantalize with the thought of what might lie beyond them.
Then the dancing begins. There are duos, trios, and quartets all sexually suggestive, some involving nudity. These dances carry the temptation and libertinism that formerly uptight vacationers experience at this resort. The motion is well executed, but before long theres a depressing sameness to everyone that writhing. Maybe this is meant to suggest the eventual monotony of all erotic experience, which it certainly does, but its doubtful The Grand Paradise wants to stress such a downer of a topic.
About halfway through, small groups are broken into smaller ones and musicians lead select audience members into private chambers. Some of these interactions seem forced theres a lot of New Age-iness and a positive outbreak of sexyface but some of the less serious encounters are charming, such as a pillow battle that gives way to a slow dance to Fleetwood Macs Dreams.
So theres pleasure find work amid the forced eroticism and dramatic longueurs. Its fun to see how much atmosphere a little bit of spackle and sand can conjure. The soundtrack is groovy and the costumes are delicious. If nothing else, The Grand Paradise serves as a salutary reminder that there were hours when the male body was as sexualized as the female one, although the men of the cast should probably be hairier and less tattooed if verisimilitude is a objective.
Ultimately, the piece is less immersive and liberated than it at first appears. Ones motions are closely curtailed, so if a specific dance or scene fails to pleasure, good luck deserting it in search of fresh entertainments. Late in the depict, theres an announcement that all rooms are now open, but after only a few minutes musicians herd everyone back to the main concourse.
It would help if the producers had felt comfy promoting more autonomy into the proceedings or at the least managed to secure a alcohol license a few daiquiris might have improved the holiday hugely.
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