Sunday, February 16, 2020

Review of "Paradise Lost"

Using John Milton’s epic poem, Paradise Lost, as his source material, playwright Tom Dulack has crafted an engaging and entertaining play of the same name.

This version of Paradise Lost is a 100 minute, intermission-less show.  The performers are engrossing and committed to their roles.  The production values--scenic design, costumes, lighting, projections, and sound—work in perfect unison that rival larger, more costly Broadway plays or musicals.

Milton’s tome begins with the angel Lucifer and his vast followers’ fall from grace, and banishment to Hell, after trying to wrestle control of heaven from God.  Director Michael Parva, in conjunction with Projection Designer John Narun, has wasted little exposition for this set-up by mounting a 20-30 second montage of old wood engravings that succinctly and artfully bring us to the netherworld and into the presence of the battle worn Lucifer (David Andrew Macdonald) and his Lieutenant Beelzebub (Lou Liberatore).  Here, Dulack has written a very funny opening scene between the lordly, arrogant Lucifer and his buffoonish associate as they recount their failed battle.

Moving forward, Lucifer seeks revenge on God and, with the assistance of Sin (Alison Fraser), a character both Satan’s wife and daughtr, he plots the destruction of God’s new world where Adam and Eve live in comfort and purity.  Even with the warnings of Archangel Gabrie (Mel Johnson Jr.), Eve is lured into eating the forbidden apple from the Tree of Knowledge by Lucifer.  Eve, in turn, appeals to Adam to do the same and both are vanquished from the Land of Paradise.

The playwright has segmented the play into scenes of Hell and the Garden of Eden.  Those that take place in the underworld are more absorbing and attention-grabbing.  There’s a dollop of humor sprinkled throughout the dialogue, which keeps the play from becoming too serious and earnest.  The characters are flawed, but compelling.

Adam and Eve, however, are not as exciting and their relationship is less captivating.  Adam (Robbie Simpson) and Eve (Marina Shay) convey the innocence and naivety of the first two humans on earth, but they are conventional and languid.  In essence, evil is just more bewitching than good.

David Andrew Macdonald seems to clearly relish the role of Lucifer.  He is sinister, smug, and majestic and shades his performance with humor.  He is an overall charismatic character.  Lou Liberatore’s Beelzebub provides continuous comic relief, which leavens out what could have been an overly serious production.  Who would have thought a fallen angel in Hell could be so funny.  Alison Fraser’s Sin is giddily lustful and conniving as she helps Lucifer in his grand desires.  Mel Johnson Jr. has a small but, nonetheless, important role as the overseer Gabriel.  He brings a stoic unflappablability to his portrayal.

Director Michael Parva never lets the air of the show become too audacious or pretentious.  He skillfully integrates all the creative elements of the production into a wholly satisfying whole.  The scenes with Adam and Eve could have been more dynamic and energizing, but don’t take away from this impressive production.

As previously stated, the inspired contributions of Scenic Designer Harry Feiner, Costume Designer Sydney Maresca, Lighting Designer Phil Monat and Projections Designer John Narun cannot be overemphasized.  Their artistry and prowess strikingly elevate the production to lofty heights.

Paradise Lost, playing on Theatre Row, Off-Broadway through March 1st.  Click here for Information. 

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