“A community in crisis leads to doubt,” the dinosaurs sing. And—they tell us—doubt leads to chaos.
As the singing, dancing Triassic Parq community unravels, the dinosaurs’ doubts pile up. All the old certainties about gender, sex, love, faith and science suddenly seem like some kind of huge confidence trick.
This musical presents the dinosaurs’ point of view of the events portrayed by the film Jurassic Park. It’s funny because it’s so silly—so gloriously wacky that logic doesn’t really apply.
The energetic young Squabbalogic performers embrace this monumental silliness in the production directed by Jay James-Moody. As well as performing familiar musical-theatre dance moves—for example in the opening number “Welcome to Triassic Park”—the cast also lumber around the stage as sparkly dinosaurs with large-clawed feet. They sing songs that are sometimes full of heart-felt longing, and they also express reptilian anger with wonderfully deep, loud roars, thanks to great sound design by Jessica James-Moody. Elizabeth Franklin’s sequined costumes are wonderfully irreverent and un-dino-like. Neil Shotter’s set, with its cement-like enclosure walls, plentiful palm trees, and high-voltage wires, is flexible and effective.
And while “real” dinosaurs are mentioned—like the T-rex and the velociraptor—there are also crazy made-up beasts like the Pianosaurus, played by Musical Director Mark Chamberlain, and Mimeosaurus, delightfully portrayed by Crystal Hegedis in white-faced makeup and a stripy Marcel Marceau t-shirt.
One of the important plot points of Hollywood’s Jurassic Park was spontaneous gender change among the supposedly all-female dinosaurs. Nature taking its course, the presence of these penises then allow the dinosaurs to by-pass the reproductive program strictly controlled by the island’s scientists, and do it for themselves.
In Triassic Parq, T-Rex 2, played by Adèle Parkinson, suddenly grows a penis—and at the same time takes on traits that are stereotypically “male”, such as an obsession with sex. T-Rex 1 (Monique Sallé) is heartbroken at losing her best friend and all the girlie fun they had together, and then furious because … well, you’ll just have to see it yourself.
Rob Johnson, playing the female Velociraptor of Innocence, is an ingénue on a quest to find what is happening. He delivers a likeable and wide-eyed performance that contributes important warmth to this central role. Blake Erickson, as white-suited narrator “Morgan Freeman”, nails the deep resonant voice of the famous actor—until a dinosaur eats him, that is. Erickson then reappears as the Velociraptor of Faith, a female pastor urging the dinosaurs to believe in “Lab”—Laboratory, their scientific creator.
I found some of this business a little tiresome, as were “Morgan Freeman’s” smutty lines alluding to having sex with women in the audience. Okay, some public figures’ reputations for saintliness just beg to be deflated. But Morgan Freeman’s messy romantic life was headline news back in 2012—when Triassic Parq premièred off-Broadway—and now it just seems a bit irrelevant and distracts from the dinosaur story. And speaking of dinosaurs, I felt uncomfortable at what seemed to be unwarranted mean treatment of Pianosaurus. After all, as Triassic Parq shows, dinosaurs have feelings too!
These are issues originating in the script, I assume, and not in Sqabbalogic’s production. Apart from a few opening-night glitches, the overall experience is good-natured tongue-in-cheek fun, delivered with pizzazz and enthusiasm.
And, in the end, the dinosaurs’ heart-warming response to chaos doesn’t really provide us with answers to Life’s Big Questions. But it certainly does send up our tendency to over-think things.