Paradise Park

Signature Theatre Company New York

(212) 224-7529

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This must be what Lawrence Ferlinghetti meant when he talked about a Coney Island of the mind, said Michael Sommers in the Newark, N.J., Star-Ledger. Charles Mee’s play, set in a rundown amusement park meant to serve as a metaphor for the American empire in decline, has a fun-house atmosphere that creates “a dreamscape of vague significance and disarming charm.” The residents of this decaying midway—a ventriloquist and his dummy, an Indian-American in a mouse suit, an escapist couple and their adolescent daughter—work out their emotional and intellectual quandaries amid fruitcake tosses, bumper cars, inflatable castles, and silvery projections of MGM mermaid Esther Williams. Director Daniel Fish does a fine job of reining in this “relentlessly whimsical” material, while Christopher McCann and Veanne Cox “fearlessly somersault through Mee’s hoops of verbiage” as the married couple.

“All of this sounds like fun, but most of the time it isn’t,” said Malcolm Johnson in The Hartford Courant. Slinging fruitcakes into mirrors and flooding the set with cloth Superman dolls may seem diverting for a while. But paired with dialogue that’s superficial and pointless, such antics don’t amount to much. Mee’s rambling text is overstuffed with obscure allusions and intellectual posing. He’s “a polymath, and he wants everyone to know it. But, increasingly, his gifts for dramaturgy seem to be slipping.” You’d be better off spending the $20 ticket price at a real amusement park, where the fun isn’t complicated by what amounts to “a not-very-interesting account of various relationships.”

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