By Patrick O’Brien
Anyone who goes into TRIASSIC PARQ expecting “JURASSIC PARK! THE MUSICAL!” — full of toe-tappers like “Clever Girl,” diligent impersonations of Jeff Goldblum’s staccato phrasing, and endless jokes about replicating a Hollywood blockbuster on a microbudget…with songs! — will be surprised that it offers a little something more.
Make no mistake: Pound for pound, TRIASSIC PARQ is that brand of wink-wink cotton candy spoof musical that has done very well for itself in recent years. Since its first stop on the fringe circuit, PARQ has claimed a tidy few prizes, made a cast album, and has found admirers, which is all a new musical and its creators (Marshall Pailet, Bryce Norbitz, and Steve Wargo) can hope for.
The leadership at Circle Theatre are clearly admirers, having produced PARQ in 2015, and having now revived it with a majority of their original cast.So what, then, does PARQ do right?
For starters, unlike a great deal of these spoofs, anyone who hasn’t memorized Jurassic Park down to the last frame won’t be left out. Here’s all you need to know going in (and they’ll recap, don’t worry): Due to some DNA something-or-other, Jurassic Triassic’s genetically engineered dinosaurs — all-female, to curb reproduction — are discovered capable of flip-flopping biological sex, therefore, capable of reproduction, and therefore, chaos ensues. In the film, that’s a slice of pseudoscience a screenwriter would use to justify an avalanche of dinosaurs to fend off at the climax. In the musical, that’s the starting point.
For another, it’s all from the dinosaurs’ perspective, each wonderfully, idiosyncratically costumed by Kat Sass.
For a third, it trades “action-filled romp” for a funny yet deep-enough musing on the volatile relationship between faith and science, with a healthy dash of gender/queer theory, to boot. The former is represented by an endearing, questioning Parker Guidry, a velociraptor torn between his adoring “Lab”-worshipping priestess (Jacob Richard Axelson) and said priestess’s exiled skeptic sister (Marissa Druzbanski), who knows exactly what lies beyond their electrified fenced-in world. The latter, by Veronica Garza — a more-than-welcome addition to this revival) — as the T-rex cursed/blessed with the offending appendage, the “dudestick,” and what that does to her inseparable T-rex BFF (Erin Daly).For a fourth, Heartland Studio is an ideally sized space for this kind of show, and co-directors Nicholas Reinhart and Tommy Bullington have precisely calibrated the performances so that everything shticks without becoming overbearing. That’s not always easy, especially when there’s a mime dinosaur (Patrick Stengle) to contend with.
Saying more will ruin the many surprises in store, and to say that there are surprises yet to be discovered in a spoof of a twentysome-year-old cultural phenomenon is indeed a pleasure. And it’s a testament to the gumption of the writers, directors, and actors who, like their scaly friends, found something hiding beneath the covers.
Circle Theatre presents “TRIASSIC PARQ” through August 13 at Heartland Studio, 7016 N. Glenwood Ave. More information and tickets are available here.