nytheatre.com review by Martin Denton
February 23, 2011
Paradise Lost comes to FRIGID New York from Canada. It's adapted and performed by Paul Van Dyck from the famous poem by John Milton. Let's hope Van Dyck comes back to New York lots of times; he's an extraordinary theatrical artist, and this 50-minute intimate epic is sure to be one of the highlights of this year's festival.
Van Dyck works theatrical magic with utmost simplicity. The set consists of a wooden table, downstage center, framed by two billowing white curtains that surround a white screen on the stage's rear wall. An old-timey radio mike stands near the curtains. Van Dyck, dressed in a black t-shirt and jeans, uses these pieces plus two puppets, one mask, and some nifty technological design elements to bring the story of the Garden of Eden to life.
I don't want to give away too many of Van Dyck's surprises here. The puppets represent Adam and Eve, and some beautiful projections turn those curtains into a blazing, fiery image of Hell or a placid, lovely view of the Garden. Van Dyck uses his remarkably supple voice to create the various familiar characters in the story (God, Lucifer, Adam, Eve, the Serpent); some ingenious sound effects help him amplify the differences and qualities of the voices he creates. Ambient music (e.g., the Rolling Stones's "Paint it Black" right after Adam and Eve taste the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge) imaginatively and evocatively supplements Van Dyck's voicework and acting.
The result of this is a stunningly realized theatricalization of a story that's as familiar as any, charting the fall of Lucifer, God's warning to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, the Serpent's temptation of Eve, and the defiance of the Lord by Adam and Eve that leads them to be expelled from Paradise. Van Dyck makes it contemporary and accessible, if not absolutely new, all while speaking Milton's lovely poetry.
The play is filled with thrilling moments; Van Dyck's imagination and inventiveness constantly surprise and enthrall us as he finds simple but unexpected ways to convey this story. And his skill and strong stage presence belie his disarmingly youthful demeanor. He is absolutely a young artist to watch. Kudos to him and his collaborators—Jody Burkholder (lighting), Lyne Paquette (puppets), and Jeremy Eliosoff (CGI artist) for bringing this engaging work to New York here at FRIGID.