Enter the mental space that is the telenovela, with Almeda Theatre’s Paradise Red, premiering at Toronto’s SummerWorks Festival this year. A play on the classic Latin American soap opera, Cocodrilo Triste Collective, in association with Almeda Theatre Company, brings to life a melodrama that embodies the 1977 political upheaval of The Republic of Chile. At the top of the show, the disheveled setting prepares us for the chaos that is about to ensue, though the main character Benjamin (Alex Contreras) comes out and fixes everything, foreshadowing how the show may or may not end. Much of the show’s humour is driven by the over-dramatization that is the telenovela, particularly with the use of the dramatic interlude to over-exaggerate the angst and distress among the characters. The blue wash that is applied to the recurring dramatic interlude is particularly effective in creating an almost alienating setting, in contrast to the setting in real time. In addition, spotlights are used particularly well, placing emphasis on the villain and her devious nature.
The overuse of exposition and self-awareness (referring mainly to the character of Benjamin) not only drives the humour throughout the show, but aids in creating a caricature out of the 1977 Chilean politics, giving the play an almost Brecht-like feel. As true as this may be, it feels as though the production could have benefitted from a little more work in terms of dialogue and performance choices, though it provides for a pleasant experience while it lasts. Despite the few uneven choices made, Paradise Red has much to offer and is definitely a show worth catching this year at the festival.
Paradise Red runs until August 17 at The Lower Ossington Theatre with a runtime of approximately 90 minutes. No intermission.