By Crystal Hayduk
Welcome to Paradise, the world premiere by Julie Marino that closes the 2018-19 season at The Purple Rose Theatre Company (PRTC), shatters stereotypes in more ways than one.
The play takes place in present time on a fictional Caribbean island. Instead of the predictable calypso beat, prelude music consists of jazz and rhythm and blues. Since PRTC designers have a purpose for every detail, this foreshadows that Welcome to Paradise isn’t going to be quite as expected.
The casual beachfront cottage set design transports the audience to an idyllic island holiday. Rory (Ryan Black) and Evelyn (Ruth Crawford) enter as new acquaintances thrust together by chance and goodwill. But with the onset of a threatening storm, departure becomes difficult and they determine to make the best of a temporary situation.
With the passage of time (marked by lovely sunset lighting), their coincidental meeting blossoms into a relationship through a series of humorous, amiable, and tender events.
Several challenges arise, including the arrival of extended family Greg (Paul Stroili), Trish (Rhiannon Ragland) and Sydney (Meghan VanArsdalen), who all have strong opinions about the relationship. Through it all, we learn there’s more irony than accuracy in the word “paradise.”
With the exception of PRTC newcomer VanArsdalen, the cast is made up of performers known to regular audience members. They’ve taken their acting to new places in this show. Black and Crawford as Rory and Ruth create memorable, brave characters. Stroili, Ragland, and VanArsdalen portray family members that everyone will recognize.
Well-designed music plays a strategic role in the storyline that jazz enthusiasts will especially appreciate.
Welcome to Paradise examines relationships with subtle charm. Where does one find or build a relationship based on unconditional care and respect? What obligation does one have to family if the relationships aren’t satisfactory? How and when does one redeem an unfulfilling past? How much of one’s personal life should be revealed to others, whether family or friends?
Apart from relationships, the play also provides a thought-provoking jumping-off point to further examine the issue of elder care, a topic of increasing social importance.
Note: This performance uses non-tobacco herbal smoke.
Welcome to Paradise
What: World premiere dramatic comedy by Manhattan playwright Julie Marino. Welcome to Paradise was a 2014 National Playwrights Conference semi-finalist.
When: Now playing through Aug. 31, 2019; six performances a week – evenings and matinees. See schedule here (https://www.purplerosetheatre.org/welcome-to-paradise/).
Where: The Purple Rose Theatre Company, 137 Park St.
Director: Michelle Mountain.
Cast: Ryan Black, Ruth Crawford, Paul Stroili, Rhiannon Ragland, and Meghan VanArsdalen
Crew: Design includes set by Bartley H. Bauer, properties by Danna Segrest, costumes by Suzanne Young, lighting by Noele Stollmack, and sound by Tom Whalen.
Stage manager: Thomas Macias, with assistance by Devin Faught; managing director: Katie Hubbard.
Tickets: Available at www.purplerosetheatre.org or by calling the box office at 734-433-7673.
About the Purple Rose Theatre Company: Founded in 1991 by actor, playwright, musician and Chelsea native Jeff Daniels, the Purple Rose Theatre Company is a creative home for original American plays. In the 168-seat theatre, patrons experience an intimate encounter with live theatre.