This Week in New York Insider's Guide to Arts & Culture in New York City Since 2001

11Feb/16

THE GRAND PARADISE

(photo by Darial Sneed)

A mother (Tori Sparks) reevaluates her life in THE GRAND PARADISE (photo by Darial Sneed)

Third Rail Projects
383 Troutman St. between Wyckoff & Irving Aves.
Tuesday - Sunday through September 4, $95-$150
718-374-5196
thegrandparadise.com

First and foremost, you need to understand that what happens at the Grand Paradise stays at the Grand Paradise. Over the course of your visit, you’re likely to be rubbed, grabbed, hugged, massaged, slow-danced, and led into private rooms, but it’s all in great fun. In 2013, Brooklyn dance-theater troupe Third Rail Projects introduced a set of characters, a traveling family, in the site-specific Roadside Attraction, which took place in and around a retrofitted 1970s camper. That nameless family has now made it to Florida, where they have gathered at the Grand Paradise, a New Age-y vacation resort that is the immersive offspring of Fantasy Island and The Love Boat (and partially inspired by Fleetwood Mac’s multiplatinum Rumours album). In a renovated one-story warehouse in Bushwick, sixty audience members join Mom (Tori Sparks), Dad (Tom Pearson), their younger daughter (Kate Ladenheim), their older daughter (Ashley Handel), and her boyfriend (Niko Tsocanos) for two hours of unpredictability with the singing Siren (Lily Ockwell), Midas (Roxanne Kidd), a cabana boy (Sebastiani Romagnolo), Venus (Emma Hoette), Jett (Rebekah Morin), the Libertine (Jeff Lyon), and the Lady (Lea Fulton) and the Gentleman (Brendan Duggan), among others, many of whom perform short dance pieces. At the beginning, you can wander through rooms at your own pace to familiarize yourself with the surroundings, but soon you will be guided by actors — and separated from whomever you came with — as the narrative starts to unfold, involving sexual freedom, the search for personal identity, the passage of time, fear of death, midlife crises, and the Fountain of Youth. Each of the five main characters (there are several casts for different performances) experiences a kind of reawakening — compelling, emotional stories we followed with great interest. But what they discover is not necessarily what they were initially after.

(photo by Darial Sneed)

A possible Fountain of Youth beckons at the Grand Paradise (photo by Darial Sneed)

The Grand Paradise is directed, designed, written, and choreographed by Third Rail Projects artistic directors Zach Morris, Jennine Willett, and Pearson, the masterminds behind the popular immersive production Then She Fell, a multisensory takeoff of Alice in Wonderland that has been playing at the Kingsland Ward at St. Johns institutional facility in Williamsburg since 2012. Among the places you will encounter as you journey through the resort are a beach with a hunky lifeguard (Zach McNally), a disco, a motel room, and the Shipwreck Lounge, where you can buy a tropical drink. All through the night, Aqua Twin Girl (Elisa Davis) and Aqua Twin Boy (Joshua Reaver) swim in an aquarium while hustlers William (Robert Vail), Grace, (Katrina Reid), and Farrah (Lauren Muraski) and the activities director (Alberto Denis) keep you always occupied. (As opposed to immersive-theater standard-bearer Sleep No More, you are not left to your own devices quite as much in The Grand Paradise, although you certainly have more than an acceptable amount of free will.) Kudos go out to the cast, composer and sound designer Sean Hagerty, costumer Karen Young, and environment designer Elisabeth Svenningsen, who have gone full tilt in making sure your stay is a very pleasant one. The extremely specific rules include no cell phones or cameras, and you must check all coats and bags. Participants are told not to open any closed doors, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be adventurous, peering through windows, peeking into drawers, opening shutters, and following a character when they beckon you into the private unknown. But alas, we’ve already said too much. Bon voyage!

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