Review by Leigh Austin
“Beware of the aisles, the dinosaurs are prone to slithering,” the House Manager warned as we walked into Heartland Studios for the revival of Marshall Pailet’s Triassic Parq: The Musical; looking back, I wish he had warned us instead about the chaos into which we were about to enter. Though the set design and lighting upon entering the theatre seemed promising, with its twist of jungle vines and iconic Jurassic Park doors, the 90 minute play bit off more than it could chew.
The play offers a glimpse into the dinosaurs’ perspective of the events that take place within the walls of Jurassic Park, called “Triassic Parq” in Pailet’s version so that, as the characters remind us, they “don't’ get sued.” And Triassic Parq is much more spiritual than one might have imagined; the dinosaurs spend much of their time and energy worshipping their god, “Lab,” a mystical force which delivers up goat meat, mystery, and musical numbers. Yet trouble in Jurassic paradise ensues when “T-Rex Two” (Veronica Garza) grapples with a sexual change that shakes the beliefs of the entire prehistoric race and makes them wonder what lies beyond the high voltage fence.
While the premise is certainly innovative, the overabundance of musical numbers (this isn’t Les Mis…) and the barrage of beaten-to-death, lengthy jokes (“Mime-a-saurus,” played by Patrick Stengle, gives a lengthy mimed reenactment that went on for what felt like forever in front of the silent, staring audience) caused a cacophony which made the small theatre feel even smaller. When Pailet’s book manages to reign itself in, paying homage to classic lines from the 1993 film without stretching the punch line into the abyss, the production offers a glimpse of the possible gem of a show that lies beneath the surface. The problem is that you’d need one hell of a paleontology team to dig enough of that up to make this into what it could be: a quick-witted, fun parody. As it stands, Circle Theatre should have let this one go extinct.
Triassic Parq is playing at The Heartland Studio through August 13. More information here.
The Hawk Chicago's reviews are included in TheatreInChicago's Review Round-Up.