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Strobe lights of many colors paint the empty dark walls of the Black Box Theatre as if it were an open canvas and the loud music bounces from wall to wall and places you in the center of a party, literally.
Although many theatrical presentations follow the traditional format that has been prevalent in theatre since Ancient Greece and its tragedies, the team behind Paradise Lost intend on taking a slight turn from what you’d expect from a play and instead take the performance itself to another level. On March 28th and 29th, 2018, LaGuardia Community College’s Black Box Theatre located in Long Island City, New York, was both witness and host to the spectacle director Eamon Foley and co-choreographer Sophie Andreassi managed to put together. The play was presented as part of the 5th annual Rough Draft Festival of the LaGuardia Performing Arts Center and gave guests an inside look into multiple theatre productions being put together. The ticket was only $10 ($5 with your student ID).
Director Eamon Foley’s Paradise Lost, an adaptation of John Milton’s epic poem, whispers to us the biblical story of Adam and Eve located in the book of Genesis. According to the scripture, God created Adam and Eve to perfection in a world that knew no sin… until they were seduced by the works of Lucifer, disobeying God’s orders and giving into sin. The brilliance behind this plot is the way it is presented to the audience and the story behind it.
Upon entering the theatre, it is made evident that you are in fact invited to Adam’s birthday party. If you really wanted to party with Adam, though, you’d have to show your invitation before entering. It wouldn’t be fun to only hear the music from outside. As you walk through the door, you encounter signs that read “Eat, Drink, Play! Eat whatever you want… JUST NOT THE FRUIT.” Before you know it, your fists are full of New Years Eve party trinkets that get you in the mood to celebrate, someone can run behind you, put a Hula-Hoop over your head and pull you over to play, or randomly toss balloons of many colors so you can keep them up with them. As you navigate through multiple activities, your feet wade through pieces of confetti all over the floor. If you aren’t playing with anyone, believe me you’ll end up dancing in the middle of the room with people dressed in bright and vivid costumes. You just tag along and let the performers guide you through the experience.
At first, it is difficult to follow what’s going on because of the amount of things taking place at the same time. You may be dancing in the center with a group, but to the corner you have another group playing games and right behind you there’s a group jumping a long pink rope. You’re not really sure if you’re supposed to be where you are at the moment, which causes a sense of confusion. Despite this, the final result was somewhat unbelievable and a joyful surprise.
From your first few observations you can tell this isn’t an ordinary play, neither is it your typical good versus bad story. It is a play where there is no dialogue, and it isn’t needed. Body movement, facial expressions and dance do all the talking one could need. Director Eamon Foley makes us active participants in this environment with no hesitation, warning or any script. The audience is ACTUALLY on the set throughout the whole play. You can’t get any closer to front row than this. Although the distance between the performers and audience is very minimal, you have to keep your eyes open and be aware of what each performer is doing, what they are giving out or even who they’re playing and dancing with.
The story unfolds when the birthday boy arrives at his party. All eyes turn to him at the center of the set. The lights shine on him as he enters and dances freely, enjoying his existence. Once Eve arrives, she encounters Adam and the chemistry is noticeable as they get closer. Like in the book of Genesis, they were made for one another. With every dance, every gesture and every laugh they became inseparable, until Lucifer stepped into the party. She had long hair, dressed in all black, and walked around the party in an aggressive yet seductive way. Slowly but surely, one by one the dancers became her followers.
The party didn’t slow down for anybody except for Adam. While everybody was having fun and paying attention to Lucifer, Adam hid in a corner far from the others. Lucifer didn’t come empty handed to the party. Upon her arrival, she brought little bottles and other items that represented substances and the dancers started consuming. They were enjoying so much what the world had to offer, that some dancers came up to me and the audience to offer these drinks and drugs so we could get like they were. Adam and Eve were both frightened by what the party was turning into, but Eve was a bit more curious than Adam. She walked slowly with precaution and analyzed the situation but dared to take a dance with the devil. Lucifer, along with a man that represented the serpent, led her straight into a trap with no way out. Once Adam is able to react and try to break Eve away from Lucifer, it was too late to pull her out of her arms. His fear was still stronger than his will and desire to be pure with Eve at his side and so his intent to beat Lucifer failed, only causing him to be another one of her followers that night.