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Paradise lost: Interactive show wanders in the jungle

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This show is steamy — in more ways than one.

The Third Rail theater company, known for transforming unexpected spaces into performance venues, invites visitors on an interactive voyage to a 1970s Hawaiian seventies resort.

While waiting to enter “The Grand Paradise,” I leafed through a “Time” magazine dated 1973; where I learn that consuming white sugar is the healthiest diet for a growing child. This kind of lurid, retro attitude is captured perfectly in the rest of the production.

The second the doors to the “resort” open you step into a fully-fledged world with mysteries awaiting behind every door, and mermaids pirouetting in a clear water tank. The “staff” of the resort is not so much attentive and friendly as predatory: every interaction with audience members is erotically charged and suggestive, though not intrusive.

When the five protagonists “guests” arrive, each carrying personal baggage (the metaphor is clear), “Grand Paradise” cracks open, with resort staff leading the “guests” and visitors into other rooms singly and in groups. Sometimes we observe the narrative as voyeurs, but at other times we are invited to join in the revel. The experience is different for every visitor.

During the course of the evening I received a massage by a male cast member (who pointedly invited me to momentarily hold a cucumber), snuck in a bedroom in the dark with a flashlight and stole a frock from a guest’s suitcase, and made a magical cocktail at the bar.

But following the plot can be a confusing task, since we are rarely left to choose the story we wish to see. And sometimes we got locked up in a room and made to assist to dance sequences that do not establish narrative as much as express inner turmoil.

The moral seems to be “one size fits all” — liberate yourself from the shackles of your expectations and find freedom through sensual pleasure, and the monologues are pretty on-the-nose on that theme. But the general oiliness of the staff-members can come across as malevolent rather than helpful, and I was waiting the whole night for a murder to happen and break the tension. Just like the staff, the show teases continuously, but the climax never quite comes.

“The Grand Paradise” at the Grand Paradise [383 Troutman St. between Wyckoff and Irving avenues in Bushwick, (718) 374–5196, www.thegrandparadise.com]. Through March 31. Tue–Sun at 7 pm and 10:30 pm. $95–$150.

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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