It’s a post­card from ‘Par­adise’

Los Angeles Times - - Theater - — David C. Ni­chols

“Be­cause the the­atre is the art form that deals above all oth­ers in hu­man re­la­tion­ships, then the­atre is the art, par ex­cel­lence, in which we dis­cover what it is to be hu­man and what is pos­si­ble for hu­mans to be.”

That sum­ma­tion from “Par­adise Park” en­cap­su­lates both Charles L. Mee’s ab­sur­dist com­edy and its break­neck, breath­tak­ing L.A. pre­miere at City Garage, the com­pany’s fi­nal out­ing in its al­ley space af­ter 15 years.

As fans and de­trac­tors alike know, play­wright Mee is an icon­o­clast with­out com­pare. In a kalei­do­scopic se­ries of amuse­ment-park vi­gnettes, Mee touches on themes of ex­is­ten­tial alien­ation and, ul­ti­mately, love like a trapeze artist leav­ing in­ex­pli­ca­bly hi­lar­i­ous, obliquely touch­ing mo­tion traces in his wake.

Di­rec­tor Frédérique Michel’s sig­na­ture blend of loopy and sar­donic is on full dis­play, and de­signer Charles Dun­combe turns his trade­mark us­age of spe­cific col­ors and iso­lated el­e­ments — for ex­am­ple, a wad­ing pool sport­ing a crocodile — into pure ethos.

The cast, swanning about to sound de­signer Paul Rubenstein’s eclec­tic scor­ing, wear­ing Josephine Poin­sot’s coy cos­tumes with aban­don, is ter­rific. Bo Roberts and the re­doubtable Cyn­thia Mance as shak­ily mar­ried tourists per­fectly counter K.C. Wright’s edgy daugh­ter and Tim Orona’s cross-dress­ing in­amorata. Ken­neth Rud­nicki’s park new­comer dove­tails with Reha Ze­mani’s dream-trou­bled Mid­west­erner. Lena Kouy­oumd­jian’s serene vi­o­lin­ist and Jeff Atik’s an­tic jack-of-many-trades — in­clud­ing a chicken — make po­tent op­po­site poles. Com­pany stal­wart Troy Dunn merges wry­ness and poignancy as clown Vikram, and Ann Stock­ing’s ven­tril­o­quist is mes­mer­iz­ing, no mean feat given that David E. Frank turns his bipo­lar dum­mies into a tour de force.

So is “Par­adise Park,” though it’s hardly for all tastes. Still, to miss this rep­re­sen­ta­tive vale­dic­tory is un­think­able.

“Par­adise Park,” City Garage, 13401⁄ 4th St. Al­ley,

2 Santa Mon­ica. 8 p.m. Fri­days and Satur­days, 3 p.m. Sun­days. Ends Nov. 7. $25. Pay what you can on Sun­days. (310) 319-9939. Run­ning time: 1hour, 30 min­utes.

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