Review of Triassic Parq at Stray Dog Theatre

    Triassic Parq The Musical is a delightful parody of the Steven Spielberg blockbuster, Jurassic Park. A splendid production of the musical is the current offering at Stray Dog Theatre.

    Unlike the pop culture parodies that are so popular here, Triassic Parq does not send up the plot and characters of its source. The musical retains only the setting and the premise of Jurassic Park. The setting is an island of the coast of Costa Rica. The premise is that entrepreneurs have turned the island into a theme park populated with dinosaurs. They were cloned from DNA extracted from blood ingested by mosquitos fossilized in amber.

    The movie tells the story of a group of people whose lives are on the line after a catastrophic failure of the barrier keeping the dinosaurs away from the people. The musical is about the dinosaurs. It focuses on an unintended consequence of their genetic engineering.

    To prevent the clones from reproducing naturally, the scientists created female dinosaurs only. This precaution was defeated, however, by the scientists’ use of frog DNA to fill in gaps in the dinosaurs’ genetic code. From the frog DNA, the clones gained the ability of some amphibians to undergo a change of gender during their lifecycles. The central complication in Triassic Parq is one dinosaur’s transformation from female to male.

    On the surface, the musical is about the consequences of introducing maleness into the dinosaurs’ all-female society. The underlying subject is human sexuality, which the musical explores with and humor and insight.

    Just as in human society, religion plays a key role in shaping ideas about sexuality in the dinosaurs’ tribe. When a T-Rex grows a male sex organ, the tribe’s spiritual leader condemns the T-Rex as an instrument of destruction.

    This spiritual leader, the Velociraptor of Faith, knows more about what has happened than she is willing to tell others. She tries to quash the curiosity of another member of the tribe, the Velociraptor of Innocence, but the truth comes out eventually.

    The excellent cast includes

    • Rachel Bailey as T-Rex 2
    • Tristan Davis as the Velociraptor of Innocence
    • Bryce Miller as Mime-A-Saurus
    • Dawn Schmid as T-Rex 1
    • Laurell Stevenson as Morgan Freeman and the Velociraptor of Science
    • Michael Wells as the Velociraptor of Faith

    They bring out the best in the rousing musical numbers with help from Michael Hodges’ choreography, Leah Schultz’s musical direction, and the playing of Schultz, Adam Rugo, and Joe Winters. Marshall Pailet wrote the music. Pailet, Bryce Norbitz and Steve, Narco collaborated on the book and lyrics.

    Justin Been’s direction exploits the flexibility of Josh Smith’s evocative scenic design, which features an imposing fence. The dinosaurian hands of Eileen Engel’s costumes make it clear who the characters are. Any more specificity would have been distracting. Been’s sound and Tyler Duenow’s lighting enhance the show’s atmosphere.

    Triassic Parq continues through April 30 at the Tower Grove Abbey, 2336 Tennessee Avenue.

    —Gerry Kowarsky

    Photo by by John Lamb

    From left to right: Dawn Schmid, Michael Wells, Laurell Stevenson, Tristan Davis, Bryce Miller, and Rachel Bailey