Review: laughs find a way in See 'Em on Stage's Triassic Parq_lowres


Viewers of the film Jurassic Park may feel terrified for the story's imperiled staff and visitors, not to mention the pathetically bleating goat, but do they wonder how the dinosaurs feel? The monstrous, prehistoric, genetically engineered beasts are imprisoned by electrified fences on a remote island and used as entertainment for ecotourists. That is the perspective taken by playwright and songwriter Marshall Pailet in an alternative, musical interpretation of Michael Crichton's science-fiction fantasy.

  Triassic Parq, produced by See 'Em On Stage at The Valiant Theatre, leaves much to the audience's imagination. Its cast is not disguised in reptilian garb, although their postures suggest ponderous tails and hands like claws. T-Rex 1 (Shelby Duhe) stomps onstage with thunderous, club-footed steps, occasionally erupting in an earth-shattering roar.

  This kooky but ingenious spoof features singing and dancing dinosaurs, imposing human emotions on creatures that historically and scientifically are presumed to act totally on instinct. Triassic Parq dinosaurs are sensitive, experiencing love, joy, jealousy, hope, compassion and desire. Velociraptor of Faith (Christopher Bentivegna), their spiritual leader who appears wearing a flowered headdress, even tries to befriend a baby goat. Despite good intentions, he succumbs to his basic instinct to rip off its head. He feels remorse and the goat forgives him. Velociraptor of Innocence (Jake Weaver) longs to escape the island entrapment, swim with the dolphins and learn to fly. He is searching for greater understanding of his world, asking: "Do you ever notice that when you question something, you start to question everything else?"

  The island is populated by females, theoretically making it a peaceful place. Two Tyrannosaurus Rexes share a close friendship until one (Kathleen Moore) develops a mysterious appendage. She begins to wonder if her relationship can survive the troubling transformation. The T-Rexes sing a poignantly beautiful duet, "Love Me as a Friend," which is so lovely, it would have befitted The Hunchback of Notre Dame. T-Rex 1 philosophically concludes, "Love and faith and science don't agree."

  Newfound sexual urges lead T-Rex 2 to seek a new type of stimulation, betraying their relationship and causing evolutionary meltdown.

  The preposterous premise works because the script is thought-provoking as well as entertaining. The cast's musical talent is impressive, with soulful vocals by Moore, who has performed for years with her uncle Deacon John Moore, and Duhe and Weaver, who both are majoring in musical theater at Loyola University. Pianist Ronald James Joseph interjects himself into the action, seemingly surprising actors and audience members. The Mime-a-Saurus (Josie Gautier) added another dimension of comedic communication to the show. There was fun choreography, with some sequences resembling Schoolhouse Rock! and one number seeming to steal a page from the traveling salesmen scene in The Music Man.

  Triassic Parq is a crazy comedy that cracks open sympathetic emotions for a pod of misunderstood and complex creatures while leaving the audience roaring.