‘Paradise’ gets some play downtown

September 9, 2004
Red & Black UGA Student Newspaper

‘Paradise’ gets some play downtown
By: Sonya Elkins

It’s not all about sex — but almost.
Sexuality, libido, spirituality and love are the themes that drive the avant garde play “Paradise Hotel,” opening downtown on Thursday, said director Joshua Waterstone.

“Sexuality is such a big thing. It’s a part of our daily life,” said Waterstone, a senior from Kennesaw. “I think the play isn’t tame in its presentation, but it’s not that far off from a conversation that girls or guys could have in a bar.”

“Paradise Hotel” mixes stylized, overtly sexual poses and speech, written and pre-recorded dialog, a rotating set and an interactive target to create a unique world.

The play is a work of Richard Foreman, founder of the Ontological-Hysterical Theater in New York City, whose absurdist works reject traditional theatrical “realism.”

Foreman’s play departs from more traditional tactics of creating an emotional connection between the characters and audience and maintaining a suspension of disbelief, said Jennifer Morris, a senior from Savannah acting in the play.

Characters and events are enacted to be judged as a play rather than as a possible “real life” situation. The unique characteristics, its non-linear plot line and its sexual content lend to the controversial nature of the show, Morris said. However, she said she hoped a variety of people would come out to experience the play.

“Athens hasn’t really seen a play like this before,” she said. “It’s controversial, but it’s all in fun. I hope people can take it that way.”

And any type of personal reaction to a performance can teach something valuable to audience members about themselves and “where they stand in human life,” Waterstone said. “Even the action of being appalled is a worthwhile reaction.”

The production received part of its funding through a grant of about $3,000 from Ideas for Creative Exploration, a University multi-disciplinary initiative for research in the arts, Waterstone said.

Local artists and drama students have been collaborating for almost a year on the Athens production of the play, which was originated by former University comparative literature instructor Cal Clements.

James Simmons, a senior from Stone Mountain acting in the play, said that several separate aspects of the play attracted him to it.

“Aside from being very different, it’s very funny,” he said. “There’s a lot of humor and it’s sincere at the same time.”

In addition to having entertainment value, the show is very chaotic and intended to be thought-provoking, Morris said. It goes beyond being just a play to sit and enjoy, attempting to offer audience members something to think about afterwards, she added.

That lasting impression is what Daniel Lebow, a University alumnus acting in the play, said he hoped audience members would take from the production.

“I hope it expands their minds,” he said. “Not that they’ll just think about life in a different way, but that they’ll be different.”

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