nytheatre.com review by Ross Chappell
August 12, 2006
The program lists PARK-N-RIDE as a "road trip by Laura Park," and I would be hard-pressed to come up with a better description. Park takes the audience along with her on a nostalgic meandering through her memories of a road trip from Wisconsin to Los Angeles, and we are introduced to a range of odd folk through Park's interpretations of the people she met during her move to California. While this show is a lot of fun to watch, it feels a bit unfinished. It could easily be fleshed out into a longer piece by introducing a few more of the idiosyncratic characters that Park encountered along the way. Adding characters would also give the audience a better sense of continuity for the road trip itself. The show is so short (45 minutes), that its ending feels decidedly truncated.
The writing is funny and quick, and it suits Park's talents well. She is energetic and animated the entire time she is on stage. The life she brings to the variety of characters she plays is both effective and charismatic. She practically transforms into her crazy ex-roommate. We also get to meet the CB-talking truck driver who picks her up when her car dies, and the mechanic who then saves the day. (Bonus points are awarded for Park working in a Missy Elliott reference during the mechanic's shop-speak which, of course, we haven't a chance of understanding.) She is the kind of performer that is so infectiously enjoyable that she makes me want to watch her in a variety of roles, and I will most definitely keep an eye out for other projects in which she is involved. Her physical humor borders on histrionic at times, but she knows just how far to take it.
The lighting is occasionally good but is too often distracting. The color choice is too strong and cartoon-like during many parts of the show; changing to softer colors would solve much of the problem. The sound, however, is quite good. The music choices are pure American road trip and help support the Zen-like quality that Park works so hard to establish during her periods of drive-time.
From dancing while driving to forgetting to pack underwear to reveling in the freedom felt when crossing a state line, Park successfully draws the audience into her reverie. She even throws in a brief and hysterical review of the art of sneaking as learned while still a child. However, while Park is enormous fun to watch, we're left feeling we missed part of the trip, which is exactly why Park says we should drive in the first place. "If you fly, you miss out on the world." We jump so rapidly from the Midwest to California that I felt short-changed, almost as though I fell asleep and missed much of the journey.