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Paradise Lost, Insight Found (FRIGID New York 2011)

by Stephen Tortora-Lee on February 25, 2011

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Paradise.Lost_WingGraphicFrigid Festival:  Paradise Lost, Insight Found

There are times in our lives when it feels like we are trapped in a place where we can’t seem to get a handle on anything, and we just wish we could go back to simpler times when choices were clearer and there weren’t so many things to distract us from just being happy. Why can’t everything just be Perfect?

More than 350 years ago John Milton created the work Paradise Lost to investigate this timeless question in a timeless way. Paul Van Dyck now brings this gem to us (as many artists before him, including William Blake) infusing this classic with modern artistic techniques as well as with time-honored ones.  For those who haven’t had much exposure to  the works of John Milton, Paul Van Dyck’s adaptation is an enticing and faithful version of the original.

The play has been elegantly compressed to slightly under an hour (from the original 12 volume epic poem totaling more than ten thousand lines) and in doing so, incorporates some mesmerizing special effects.  The characters includes Lucifer, Adam and Eve (represented by puppets), Sin and Death (CGI demon creations). Masks and bedsheets and projected scenery take us from Hell to the Abyss and finally to the new creation of Earth where Man is then the new pinnacle of God’s perfection.

One thing that is interesting about the “classics” is how much a new work based upon them can simultaneously touch us deeply as well as demonstrate how an addition of a modern veneer can add shine.  It is as if this work glows with a light that only the depth of centuries shone through the lens of our modern recognition of the thing can provide.  In this case expertly performed, directed and adapted by Paul Van Dyck, his interpretation of Milton’s ancient and venerable work and the selection of the music outlining different arcs of the play help us understand the grander themes of the work more instinctively. The music was cleverly tied to well known classics from The Rolling Stones.  The first arc of Lucifer making his way out of Hell was accompanied by Sympathy for the Devil;  his seduction of Eve to the dark side was underscored with Paint it Black and when all seems lost and Michael shows Adam the results of his decision to eat of the forbidden fruit the music changes to You Can’t Always Get What you Want.

Paul first transports us to the days following the Fall as Lucifer outlines to his minions his big plan to corrupt God’s new creation of the earth. The CGI creations of Jeremy Eliosoff and an echo mic take you to the edge of reality as Lucifer approaches the Abyss and is confronted by two of his forgotten progeny Sin and Death. This scene really makes you feel the loneliness and resentment of these denizens of Hell and even almost an empathy for their need to rebel in the hopes of finding some route to escape. Throughout the play the lighting and projected scenery help us walk through the varied landscapes and helps us transition throughout thanks to Jody Burkholder’s expert craftsmanship in light design. The puppets of Adam and Eve by Lyne Paquette evoke empathy as well. Their round and awkward features remind us of our own vulnerability when we are adapting to new places. But the possibility of seeing them that way forever makes the Tragedy of  Paradise Lost a bittersweet one as it dawns on us, as it does our characters, that if we lose our innocence at least we gain greater solace in being able to glimpse more and more of a deeper world around us and within us.

As you can guess some apples are eaten and consciousness raised with the usual consequence of being able to now see the problems surrounding us. But upon being escorted out of the garden the Angel Michael shows Adam a vision of all the problems that their sins have wrought and a moment of compassion pointing him in the direction of the hope that can be found by finding peace within.

I would definitely strongly recommend Paul Van Dyck’s adaptation of Paradise Lost for anyone wanting to see a truly personal and powerful interpretation of this classic that I think holds truths that are just as important today a they were in days of yore.


John Milton’s Paradise Lost
Presented by ACM Productions
UNDER St. Marks
Wed 2/23 @ 10:30pm, Fri 2/25 @ 7:30pm, Mon 2/28 @ 10:30pm, 3/4 @ 10:30pm, 3/6 @ 7:00pm

FRIGID New York Festival 2011 will run February 23-March 6 at The Kraine Theater & The Red Room (85 East 4th Street between 2nd Ave and Bowery) and UNDER St. Marks (94 St. Marks Place between 1sr Ave and Ave A). Tickets ($10-$16) may be purchased online at or by calling Smarttix at 212-868-4444. All shows will run 60 minutes long or less.

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