Gauguin’s Paradise made its debut on the UTD scene at 8 p.m. March 25, incorporating video clips of Paul Gauguin’s paintings and using his letters as dialogue to illustrate the artist’s identity. The play runs on weekends from March 26-28 and April 2-4.
Fred Curchack’s play is remiscent of Alice in Wonderland but with a tropical theme. He makes use of the light projections to distort the images of Gauguin’s paintings to fit the context of a certain period in the artist’s life and even uses the white costumed bodies of the actors as frames.
By using Gauguin’s letters as dialogue, the audience gets the impression that Gauguin and those close to him are speaking for themselves, rather than having someone else speak for them.
Using a predominant tropical theme with drum music and bright vibrant colors, the play reflects the artist’s intense love of the exotic and the savage. It presents Gauguin as brilliant, prideful and utterly selfish man who is infused with an intense love of life.
It is admirable that the play attempts to show Gauguin as a driven but quite flawed human as opposed to trying to make him into some great and admirable man. The audience members are allowed to decide for themselves what they think of Gauguin rather than being pushed to believe one thing or another.
However, during the course of the play there were very apparent points where the actors either messed up or forgot their lines. It was a little disappointing because it messed up the flow of things at the time and temporarily destroyed the illusion being created.
The maudlin chorus characterization of Mette, Gauguin’s wife, grated on my nerves. Although her worries about creating a livelihood for her family were not to be shrugged off, the whiny voices used to portray her were just ridiculous.
Despite these undesirable points Gauguin’s Paradise proved to be quite enjoyable and thought provoking.