Red Purkinje*, ominous ambiance** and desperate gasps for air – the swarming violin** forecasts a nightmare before the storm.
Flashbacks ensue, coming full circle by the end. Paradise Comics owner George (David Ross) is forced out of paradise when his business ceases operations. Unable to cope with this loss and his own familial issues, he takes his life, leaving wife Janie (Sarah Naomi Campbell) and daughter Beans (Sherman Tsang) to pick up the pieces – as well as his entire comic book collection.
We’re exposed to many dark and complex stories in comics and their film adaptations, but we never really see stories about real people with real problems and their relationships with comics. Written by Caitie Graham, Paradise Comics shows us what it’s actually like to pursue heroism as humans, and all the pain and struggling that come with it.
In essence, this is a play about trying to provide the right kind of love and support for people we care about, despite the difficulties we have in reaching out to and understanding them, due to our own perspectives and personal demons. It does an exceptional job pushing this theme, by highlighting the importance of realizing the error in our ways when doing the things that we feel are necessary, rather than listening to the actual needs of the people we’re trying to help.
For the most part, the cast creates a healthy balance between intense and comedic moments. The tension, bitterness, and underlying sadness between Beans, George and Janie are believable, although I felt that Campbell’s performance as the trying mother was the most effectively poignant of the three. There were a few instances of awkward deliveries and body language in these scenes – especially between Janie and Marvin (David Ross) – but they weren’t anything severe.
The cheeky exchanges between Beans and George, as well as Beans and her best friend Hannah (Maddie Bautista), are definitely a refreshing change of pace from the heavier segments. However, I do think that some of the girls' antics are perhaps a little too silly given the play’s overall tone, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy them nonetheless.
Throughout the play, this family is in the process of moving and Jingjia Zhang’s set design reflects that, complete with cardboard boxes, furniture, household objects and groceries scattered all over the place. The actors make use of the entire space; absolutely nothing goes to waste, and it all perfectly encapsulates what the characters are going through from an aesthetic standpoint.
Paradise Comics is a powerful reminder that we all learn how to cope during confusing and scary times in our lives, and by extension, how to get through to one another to ensure that we all get out as healthy and happy as possible.
Directed by Darwin Lyons, Paradise Comics runs at the 56K Kensington Hall until Dec. 3. For more information, visit https://www.facebook.com/filamentincubator
*by lighting designer Sharmylae Taffe-Fletcher
**by sound designer Deanna Choi