It’s raucous. It’s raunchy. It’s riotous. It may tip the weirdness scale for which City Stage productions have become known. And that’s saying something. “Triassic Parq: The Musical” provides a romp through pop-cultural references, theatre parodies, debates about science and religion, transgender acceptance, identity crisis, and sexual discovery. Oh, yeah: And. It. Has. Singing. Dinosaurs!
Winner of Best Musical at the 2010 New York Fringe Festival, “Triassic Parq” is inspired by the early ‘90s flick “Jurassic Park,” except the writers—Marshall Pailet, Bryce Norbitz and Steve Wargo—make it clear in the show’s opening number that copyright laws could get them sued if they used the original name. However, this show is far-removed from its film counterpart of dinosaurs threatening the confines of humanity. It drives home the point that humanity—err, dino-manity—is often a threat only to itself when lived without hope.
The plot revolves around a modern-day dinosaur theme park, Isla Nublar, off the coast of Costa Rica, where all-female velociraptors and tyrannosaurus rexes roam in their tribe peacefully, blissfully—gossiping, playing, eating their slain goats at “church sacrifice.” Thanks to a lab modification, unbeknownst to them, humans have crossed their genes with amphibian DNA, which means they can mutate sexes spontaneously. Thus, when the tribe becomes tainted by a T-Rex who grows a penis, it forces everyone to ask questions about innocence, faith, science, and their belief in their deity, “The Lab.”
While the show’s preposterous dialogue and song-and-dance numbers will have audiences hunched over in laughter and disbelief, the content it covers is quite relevant now (especially with Olympic athlete Bruce Jenner transgendering across the headlines). Though it uses abusrdist humor, it’s a good way to reach the masses with a current message of acceptance—even if that message sometimes gets belabored.
Success can be pointed to the cast who really make these complex creatures come to life: Alyssa Fetherolf’s transformation into a tainted T-Rex 2 feels rather honest. At the onset, she plays a teenager perfectly enamored with her best gal pal, Kaitlyn, a.k.a., T-Rex 1 (Robin Heck). They answer each other’s questions simultaneously and finish each other’s sentences to no avail. Their “love” is innocent, but when Fetherolf grows an appendage—dildo, included—rage and confusion sets in.
T-Rex 2 is the only one who could ameloriate Kaitlyn’s unhinged rage. Yet, hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, which is what happens when Fetherolf has relations with another dino. Heck’s insanity will be quite relatable to any woman who’s dealt with unfaithfulness. And her rage is palpable in song, as heard in her scream-sing “Kaitlyn’s Rampage.”
Fetherolf’s focus on playing her role straight, with a dildo constantly bouncing about and without ever breaking stride, is a feat unto itself. Through all the choreography, blocking and fast movements put in place by director Rachael Moser and choreographer Kendra Goehring-Garrett, Fetherolf’s quite endowed new body part takes up as much stage time as she does. Yet, it doesn’t take away from the actress; she’s emboldened by the split dichotomy of shedding a little girl’s innocence for dino-dude’s libido. Her winning rock number, “Dick Fix,” sounds like something SNL’s power duo Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake easily could have coined.
I love Moser’s choice to gender-bend the show. Males play females; females become males. It’s all a mishmash of the Q (“questioning”) in LGBTQIA. One of the greatest scenes comes when T-Rex 2’s reflection in the water is mimicked by Mimeasaurus (Brendan Carter), as he uses his elbow to mirror the dinosaur’s genitalia. In fact, Carter manages to steal scenes left and right, despite his silence as a mime (was some Nietzsche existentialism at work in this character?). Whether acting like a stomped-on rock or miming his rage over a murdered balloon dog, it’s worth keeping a keen eye on Carter’s presence. The chops of a great actor are visible.
The flamboyant, little princess, Velociraptor of Innocence (Brad Mercier), is our heroine of the show. Her birthday into womanhood leads her on a quest to find answers about sexuality and what it all means. She vascillates between believing her religious upbringing or following her thirst for knowledge and science. Like all rebellious teens, she breaks her dependence from Mama Guru, Velociraptor of Faith.
Mama is played with commendable reserved comedic timing thanks to Patrick Basquill. He manages to cross seriousness and ineptitude with braggadocio. It’s like watching Ron Burgundy as a cult leader of a dino-park. And his “Hello, Little Goat” number is sweetly off-putting.
Mercier is cast to near perfection. He is over-the-top as Velociraptor of Innocence and infuses so much energy into the show (“Beautiful Day,” “Power Ballad”) whether speaking in a high-pitched squeal or skipping about from point A to B.
Mercier’s vivacity is only matched onstage by Chandler Davis’ Velociraptor of Science. Davis has some of the best lines that will produce boisterous laughs over again. The hip-hop number she leads, “Science,” is the best of the evening. It showcases a change of pace that the music needs in order to match the modern writing of the show. While the music is brilliantly played by local band Justin Lacy and the Swimming Machine, the composer should have considered an update in in style across the board. When its rock roots are heard or it treads hip-hop territory, it fires on all engines. And even though it’s musical theatre, cutting back on its ballads, would be a tremendous update. The ballads often bog it down from its quirk.
Led by Amanda Hunter, the band is spot-on, but Hunter also manages to shine from behind her keys as the ostracized Pianosaurus. In fact, she inspires much improv and audience call-back in the show, which is a telltale sign that “Triassic Parq” is on its way to cult-classic status (also, it tips its hat in homage to other well-known productions like “Les Mis,” “Into the Woods” and “The Wizard of Oz”—a nice touch). When audience members cheer for her extemperaneous insight, the tribe bullies Pianosaurus and the audience, which leads to some interesting improv: “Don’t fucking clap for her,” Mama Guru insists.
Oh, and how could I forget? As it’s billing says, “Like all great tales laden with import, it is narrated by Morgan Freeman.” Yes, “Triassic Parq” gets its initial intro by the man with a “raspy yet soothing” voice—played by a fitting Jake Steward, large freckle makeup included. Actually, it can’t go without notice that the makeup of this show is a real winner, thanks to Kenneth Rosander. He manages for the cast to merely allude to dinosaurs by making them look modern enough as to believe they’ve been genetically modified. Keeping them in all black is a smart choice so the pop of color in their makeup and hair shine.
Triassic Parq: The Musical
February 20-22, 8 p.m.; 22, 3 p.m.
21 N. Front Street. – 5th FL.
Tickets: $22-$27 • 910-342-0272