BWW Review: WELCOME TO PARADISE at Purple Rose Theatre Company Is A Heartwarming New Play!
The world premiere of Welcome to Paradise, running through August 31st at the Purple Rose Theatre Company in Chelsea, is a fresh piece of theatre that will engage audience members throughout the entire performance. Welcome to Paradise, set in the Caribbean, centers around two people who, despite their age difference, find love and acceptance in each other. With a generation gap (or more) between them, they discover they have more in common with each other than they thought. Welcome to Paradise explores the true meanings of relationships, and how two people who meet as strangers can evolve into something much more.
Ryan Black plays the role of Rory, the lovable and laid-back drifter who has found pleasure in traveling the world, not knowing where he may end up next. When he arrives on the Caribbean island of St. Sebastian, he ends up taking an elderly woman (Evelyn) back to her house as she had nearly passed out when getting off the plane at the airport. With nowhere definite to stay, Evelyn offers Rory her spare bedroom, and in the following weeks the two get to know each other quite well. Rory is free-spirited, and Black does an eminent job of portraying this personality trait. He is a very positive person and is helpful when he needs to be. Watching Black perform this role with such positivity and confidence is like watching a brother who you grew up with. He does a superb job as Rory, and I am grateful to have seen a completely different side of him character-wise, after seeing him perform the intense role of Chris in All My Sons at PRTC just a few months ago. Ryan Black is a definite standout among the cast.
Equally as talented is Ruth Crawford as Evelyn. Approaching her twilight years, Evelyn has been widowed for quite some time. She has three kids but doesn't get along with any of them. She has been companionless for many years, and Rory comes at the perfect time in her life. Rory brings out her youthfulness and happiness again. Crawford's meaningful facial expressions allow the audience to see the true character of Evelyn and what she is thinking throughout the course of the show. Crawford demonstrates Evelyn's sure sense of caring and lovingness while interacting with Rory, as well as her feelings of displeasure when her son Greg comes to visit her home. Crawford is tasked with having to move in and out of different moods throughout the show, and she does this incredibly naturally.
The space at Purple Rose Theatre is perfect for the premiere of a meaningful play like Welcome to Paradise. Upon sitting down, the audience members are looking up and down at a very simple, yet familiar set. Designed by Bartley H. Bauer, the set is presented as a beach house, complete with a kitchen, living room, and porch that looks out to the water. Bauer did an excellent job with this design.
Welcome to Paradise is a new piece of theatre that will leave the audience reflecting upon their own relationships. The way that is presents topics like love, conflict, and unhappiness is unlike something I have seen on stage before. I would recommend this show to anybody who is looking for a reflective play with an excellent cast.
Directed by Michelle Mountain, the cast also features artists Paul Stroili (Chicago, IL), Rhiannon Ragland (Gregory, MI), and Meghan VanArsdalen (Ann Arbor, MI). Ticket prices range from $23 to $47 with special discounts for students, seniors, teachers, members of the military and groups (12+). For more information or to make reservations call (734) 433-7673 or go to www.purplerosetheatre.org.
*Show information courtesy of The Purple Rose Theatre Company.