Review: ‘The Grand Paradise’ by Third Rail Projects

Critic’s Pick. “The latest and lushest of the many immersive theater spectacles to set up camp in New York… This interactive tour of an imaginary Floridian pleasure palace from the 1970s manages to summon romantic promise and regretful retrospection in a single, ocean-air breath.” — Ben Brantley, The New York Times

Critics’ Pick. “A captivatingly sensual interactive adventure… This escapist world is our oyster, where each grain of sand in an hourglass has a shot at becoming a pearl.” — Time Out

“Extremely impressive.” — amNewYork

“This is one you absolutely cannot miss.” — Huffington Post

“A fun, hip and sensuous two-hour holiday with a cast of 20, all attractive, some barely clad, in a cleverly designed beach resort from the hedonist 1970s.” —  NewYorkTheater.me

“A little disorienting, a little exotic, a bit joyful, sometimes a bit frightening. It is like traveling in a foreign country with a culture very different from your own. ‘The Grand Paradise’ does all this. It’s worth the trip.” — WNYC

Third Rail Projects follows up its critically acclaimed, long-running production of THEN SHE FELL with the World Premiere of THE GRAND PARADISE, a fully immersive, multi-sensory experience in which visitors travel to a tropical paradise. Performances take place at The Grand Paradise, a venue in Bushwick, Brooklyn custom renovated for the production.

Set in those hazy and culturally luminal years of the late 1970s becoming the 1980s, the experience begins as you are handed a vintage plane ticket by a polyester-clad airline attendant. You and other guests find yourselves transported to THE GRAND PARADISE, a tropical resort that purports to be the home of the original, genuine Fountain of Youth.  Greeted with a tropical drink, a garland of flowers, and an overly-cheerful Activities Director, visitors encounter the resort’s resident population, characters who embody the era’s shifting and blurring values — a rogue’s gallery of eccentrics, hustlers, eternal youths, gods, monsters, disco queens, and con men. Visitors to THE GRAND PARADISE are invited to explore the grounds and the beaches, watch a floorshow, quench their deepest longings, follow performers into one-on-one encounters, and trade their faded ideals for shiny new illusions. Ultimately, THE GRAND PARADISE offers a pas de deux of desire and death, a midlife crisis, a coming of age, and search for the revitalizing waters of the Fountain of Youth at the resort of the eternally broken-hearted.

Based on a concept by Tom Pearson, THE GRAND PARADISE is directed, designed, written and choreographed by Zach Morris, Tom Pearson, and Jennine Willett in collaboration with The Company: Erik Abbott-Main, Elizabeth Carena, Alberto Denis, Ashley Handel, Roxanne Kidd, Jeff Lyon, Rebekah Morin, Lauren Muraski, Marissa Nielsen-Pincus, Tara O’Con, Wil Petre, Joshua Reaver, Katrina Reid, Edward Rice, Ashley Robicheaux, Sebastiani Romagnolo, Jessy Smith, Tori Sparks, Niko Tsocanos, and Carlton Cyrus Ward. The production features production design by Zach Morris, Tom Pearson, and Jennine Willett, original music & sound design by Sean Hagerty, costumes by Karen Young, environment design Elisabeth Svenningsen, project management by Andrea Dohar Corbett, production management by Brittany Crowell, stage management by Kristina Vnook, and technical direction by Jordan Schulze.  It is produced in association with Bill Caleo and Zach Stern.

The full company of performers includes: Matthew Albert, Erika Boudreau-Barbee, Elizabeth Carena, Guilia Carotenuto, Elisa Davis, Alberto Denis, Benjamin Freedman, Lea Fulton, Amy Gernux, Joseph Harris, Julia Jurgilewicz, Roxanne Kidd, Madison Krekel, Justin Lynch, Rebekah Morin, Krista Morgenson, Zach Morris, Lauren Muraski, Taylor Myers, Marissa Nielsen-Pincus, Tara O’Con, Tom Pearson, Joshua Reaver, Katrina Reid, Edward Rice, Julie Seal, Bre Short, Jessy Smith, Bryan Strimple, Jeff Sykes, Jake Szczpek, Simon Thomas-Train, Niko Tsocanos, Carlton Cyrus Ward, and Jennine Willett.

Hailed as one of the foremost companies creating site-specific, immersive and experiential performance in the US, Third Rail Projects, led by Artistic Directors Zach Morris, Tom Pearson, and Jennine Willett, is dedicated to re-envisioning ways in which audiences can engage with contemporary performance. They have made work in New York, internationally, and abroad for over 15 years, and their long-running, award-winning work, Then She Fell, was named as one of the “Top Ten Shows of the 2012” The New York Times and acclaimed as one of the best theater experiences of 2013 by Vogue Magazine. Third Rail Projects has been the recipient of several prestigious awards, including New York Dance and Performance (Bessie) Awards for Then She Fell (2013) and Vanishing Point (2008). For more info, visit thirdrailprojects.com.

THE GRAND PARADISE runs thru December 31, 2016. Performances are Thursday – Sunday at 7:00pm, with 10:30pm shows on Friday and Saturday.. The Grand Paradise is located at 383 Troutman Street at Wyckoff Avenue in Bushwick, Brooklyn — just off the L train at Jefferson Street. Tickets are $110 – $135, available at http://www.thegrandparadise.com. Private events are also available; visit the website for more information. Performances begin promptly and there is absolutely no late admittance and no refunds. The show features nudity and adult themes, so admittance is strictly limited to audience members 18 years of age and over; all audience members must bring valid government-issued photo IDs. The performance lasts roughly 2 hours. Because of the immersive nature of this piece, audiences may be standing for significant periods of time over the course of the performance. Audiences are encouraged to wear comfortable shoes. This performance is not recommended for audience members who are not comfortable standing, walking or being alone. For more information call 718-374-5196.

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Review:

Therapy?  Self Care?  A Night Out?  A Theatre Experience off the Beaten Path?  Perhaps a little bit of all of that.

Immersive theatre is not for the faint of heart.  If you are familiar with ‘Then She Fell’ you know that immersive theatre will get under your skin and perhaps even trigger you into reflecting on some thoughts that you were not willing to entertain on a night out with friends.  Be ready to be freaked out a smidge but also to have an experience you will live to tell.

Think hazy, hot and sweaty .  A late 1970s tropical resort. A fountain of youth that promises to quench your deepest longings.

When I got off the train at Jefferson in Brooklyn and turned a corner to lead me to a non descript door with a tiny lobby space where I had to drop off my purse, phone and jacket – I was already feeling naked and slightly deaf.  Fellow guests and I were ushered into a tiny hallway and were greeted by a video flight director who laid out the rules for the night in a Kubrick meets Chappelle cheeky delivery.

We were then greeted with Hawaii style lays and drinks as we waited for the fun to begin.  My fellow guests looked uneasy.  I was ready for anything.  I felt like the troupe members were eyeing the guests and I up to see who they could split up during the course of the performance so we can all have a layered customized experience.

My openness must have been exuded because I was quickly asked to go into a room with a woman with Farrah Fawcett flared locks and was given a tarot card reading.  Something  I would normally run away from.  But instead I sat comfortably on a stool and listened closely as the woman explained my cards to me.  Goddess, water bearer and warrior.  Bang on.

When that experience concluded time seemed to speed up and a group of my fellow guests and I watched other guests arrive who were part of the troupe and were in outfits out of the 70’s.  I felt high, but I was completely sober.  The vibe was beginning to change.  The air felt a tad more sinister.  Freewheelin.  Dusty.

Fellow guests and I were broken up into smaller groups and asked to go into spaces with different members of the troupe.  We were asked to drink juice, water and partake in activities which always seemed to have an air of ‘what’s going to happen next?’.  The actors were asking us a lot of questions to ruminate on or better yet to giggle at.  We were all there to have a good time.

Voyeurism was encouraged.  Often times we could peek into windows, landscapes and rooms to see what other guests were doing with one another or with other actors.  I observed there were guests like myself who may have been alone and were open to interact with the other actors.  Whereas there were some guests who were a part of a couple and clung to their partners even after the actors tried to gently pry them apart.

I was asked to follow a troupe member into a cave where at first he was going to snort cocaine from a bottle.  Instead it proved to be an aromatherapy bottle.  It soothed me as he asked me to lie down as he quickly covered the wood panelling around me with what resembled a coffin.  He asked me ‘Are you ready to let go?’.  I did not respond but I didn’t feel like I needed to fill the space with how I was feeling in that moment.  Nervous, fearful, reflective but also at ease.  I was given a bouquet of flowers to hold as he left the room.  I lay there in the semi darkness wondering if I should bolt but I couldn’t move.  It felt like a few minutes and he returned and guided me out back into the common area with another guest who had also gone through a similar experience with another troupe member.

We were then taken into a closet which was laden with sand and shelves of hourglasses.  I felt very open and vulnerable in that moment.  The troupe member spoke to us about time and as it passes – losses we may encounter and moving forward.  It felt like every interaction was deliberate or was customized to my life even though clearly it wasn’t.

The Grand Paradise is a must see before it comes to a close at the end of December.  I encourage you to grab a drink at the start of the performance to loosen you up a little.  Wear comfortable shoes and dress to kill.  Open your mind and heart to the theatrical experience and don’t be shy.

Hang out at the Shipwreck Lounge after the performance and have a cocktail to reflect on what you experienced along with the other guests.  Everyone will have different experiences and reactions to what unfolds.

Immersive theatre can be as immersive as you make it.  The Grand Paradise is truly a place to let go of your inhibitions.

http://www.theshipwrecknyc.com/

http://thegrandparadise.com/

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