Search This Site

Monday, June 29, 2009

Review- This Isn't Paradise (RHE Productions)

The Fab Marquee review Dianna Martin.

It can be a very ambitious project to produce, write, and star in a play, especially when said play has a lot to say...or at least a lot that it is trying to say. Unfortunately, This Isn't Paradise, by Richard Hymes Esposito, directed by Robert Haufrecht, lives up to it's name and then some. It is a play with problems from the beginning, and painfully what keeps the audience interested and holding on, what makes it work on a certain level is that you keep thinking something is going to come of it...or that it's going to get better. However, with the exception of a few moments, it does not. It is a play with a lot of potential, but no payoff, unfortunately.

David H. Holmes (Mark) and Eden Marryshow (Raul)
photo credit:

The play begins with recordings of speeches of President nominee Barack Obama in the darkness, before we are introduced to a real estate firm and the day to day life on the job of those employees trying to deal with working for commission in an economy such as this. There are debates on politics in the office and generic hijinks that come with working in an office setting that is far from the corporate world. From the beginning, I was struggling to understand (besides the economy references that were used as jackhammers over the audiences heads) why the long, drawn out recordings of Obama's speeches in the dark? Was it to solidify our understanding that we are in a recession and that it's effecting even the real estate world? I think we're all already on the same page with that.

These obvious economic problems seem to generate some tension in the office, for the protagonist/lead/playwright Robert (Esposito) is the only one there, it seems, who is not for Obama, and he is also the most disturbed and disturbing character in the play. There are characters that are all there for different reasons; Mark is a regular NYC trust-fund kid in his mid-twenties who is trying to work a little on the side while he pursues acting (played with depth and interesting choices by David H. Holmes). Heather (Elizabeth Woodard), the new girl on the block so to speak, walks the thin line between flirting and dating Esposito to get ahead in the company because she has a daughter and needs to put food on the table. The entire first act is an introduction to the characters, but seems to be little more than that. There were many moments where it was confusing because it seemed that Esposito either forgot his lines or was doing a partial improv. I was unsure (really thinking the former), but as an actress myself, I'm the last one to give an actor a hard time about it; however when said actor is also the playwright and the dialogue is oftentimes stale, it lends to general confusion for the audience as well as the actors. I applaud the actors for muddling through what seemed an attempted re-hash of Glengarry Glen Ross with Esposito attempting a cross between Deniro's Taxi Driver and Michael Douglas' Falling Down. One funny moment was when a statue of Obama is the cause of a fight, but unfortunately moments like this were few and far between.

R. Elizabeth Woodard (Heather) and Richard Hymes-Esposito (Robert)
photo credit:

To make matters worse, the soundtrack that is used is wonderful R&B/Funk/Soul/Rock hits from the 70's that I enjoyed - but has absolutely no bearing on the play. This play is very much a 2008/2009 play - to the year, I might add - and in selecting music for soundtrack, I would like to ask what relevance the music had for the show, other than they were great tunes?

One aspect I will mention that saves this play to a degree is the talent of fellow salesman Reno (Jesse Wakeman) whose comic timing was delightful. As the sleazy real estate agent who fakes an Australian accent to get clients, he went with the flow of the show and stood out as an oasis of entertainment in the production. I look forward to seeing more of his work in the future.

This was an ambitious project, and I wish that director Robert Haufrecht would have made some adjustments so that this play, which does smack of potential, could go beyond that. It seems all was put on Esposito's shoulders, and at this time in life it was simply too much.

RHE Productions presents
Richard Hymes-Esposito's
This Isn't Paradise
June 18-29, 2009
78th Street Theater Lab

Tickets $18. To learn more about the show visit

78th Street Theater Lab | 236 W 78th Street | Manhattan.

No comments: