There are many things I could say about the play called Atheist’s Paradise now being produced by The Edge of the Universe Players 2. I could say this piece has no business being on stage, but that would be too harsh (on second thought–no it’s not!). I could say maybe with a better lead actor, it would work. NAAHHH! I could say it has a good central idea, but at least to me everything that happened in the play seemed implausible. Now, I guess I have to back these negative comments up, or else my publisher will get whiny and my editor cranky, and lord knows we don’t want that.
Let’s start with the basic plot. Bill Goodman’s script concerns a college professor Doc (Nick Torres) at a Midwest private Christian college; he also happens to be the college’s football coach. When the new president of the college, Jim (Claude Stark), comes to him and asks that he concentrate more on his football team–so as to ensure funding for the college–and less on the teaching of his classes, it is not met with an enthusiastic response. He is also asked to tone down his theological idea, which it seems to me would never have gotten him hired at this kind of college in the first place. Then we have subplots that involve the students including one named Bob (Victor Maldonado) who has repeatedly tried to cut himself and Sheila (Rebecca Phillips) who is having a hard time being cut from her parent’s apron strings. There even is a plot point about the professor being a flight instructor and teaching Sheila to fly.
If the playwright is trying to make a point about the administration’s priorities at these colleges, then he needs to focus on one story and not have his show so convoluted. If the main story of the professor and the fights with the administration were the only focus, the show might have worked considerably better. Also random references to George Clooney and other misnomers do not help matters.
Edward Moser’s sound design has a very nice ethereal quality to it and serves the production well.
Now I don’t particularly like to embarrass actors because it’s not my place, and I don’t know about the process of every production. However, I have to point out that Nick Torres as Doc is one of the big problems with this show. His performance is quite stilted and his line deliveries are not much better. This could be the way director Megan Behm has directed him or it could be a character choice, but either way it does the play a disservice.
As the students, Sheila and Bob, Rebecca Phillips and Victor Maldonado are better but, because the script is so poorly written, they don’t come off as well as they should. As the president, Claude Stark gives one of the more animated performances of the evening and Jan Forbes in multiple characters does bring some well needed humor as the father of Sheila.
Brooke A. Robbins minimalistic set does what it needs to do and Brian S. Allard’s lighting create some nice moods for the proceedings. Edward Moser’s sound design has a very nice ethereal quality to it and serves the production well.
Atheist’s Paradise could work as a play but it is in need of a dramaturge desperately and without a strong leading man I have to say Atheist’s Paradise is god-awful.
Running Time: A merciful one hour and 40 minutes.
Athiest’s Paradise is playing through Nov. 25th, 2012 at the Melton Rehearsal Hall at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company which is located at 641 D Street NW Washington, DC 20004. Tickets can be purchased by clicking here.