When I first heard about The Grand Paradise, I made a choice to not look up anything else about the show, other than hearing it was about “the 70’s.” That can mean a lot of things, some great, some terrible, and I’ve found that sometimes it’s best to know as little as you can (well, in some cases).
So, I’m not going to spoil, or “spoil,” this show for you, though I think reducing The Grand Paradise to “[x] happens in this room” or “If you give [y] to [person] they will take you to a SECRET CHAMBER!” is not only pretty hard to do, but also ignores the central themes of the piece. What I mean is that you could have a map to do everything Just Right and that wouldn’t heighten your experience. It might even possibly ruin it.
With The Grand Paradise, Third Rail managed to build on the interpersonal connections that I think set Then She Fell apart from shows like Play Date, Sleep No More, and Queen of the Night. I realize I’ve only seen two Third Rail Productions, but I’ve come out of both feeling so incredibly connected and engaged with that I immediately wanted to turn around and go back in, just to recapture that feeling. Then She Fell feels guided but the Grand Paradise is much more open for exploration and yet still small enough to wrap your mind around so you don’t immediately go rushing for the bar.
There’s a story running through The Grand Paradise, something about following a family on vacation, though it almost doesn’t matter. I say almost because transformation (specifically, the transformation of the members of the family) is one of the main themes of The Grand Paradise, though, not in the way you’d think. There’s a heavy emphasis on being both caught in time and outside of its reaches, as well acknowledging you as a perfect person. Threads of the EST movement can be found, and why not? It’s the 70s! And I will totally admit to breaking down sobbing at about two points dealing with these themes. I have no idea if I was in the right place at the right time or what, but something in the show really hit me, and I was grateful that the show actually allowed me the time and space to deal with those emotions.
Every time I’ve finished Then She Fell, I have felt like I’ve been thrust out of a fever dream and wanted to bang on the doors for them to let me back in. The Grand Paradise isn’t like that. Everything might be a façade, and removed from space and time in the same manner, but The Grand Paradise manages to find moments to end things, for now, though welcoming you back if you so choose. Almost as if it’s some beloved children’s book, though this seems like the wrong show for that metaphor.
I also have to say that I was very much impressed at The Grand Paradise being set in the 70s and not feeling like some sort of Brady Bunch nostalgia trip. Everything felt lived in, but recently, and not a pastiche. It’s a nice touch that helps bring the show to life, instead of feeling like you’re being winked at the entire time.
The long and short of all this is, should you see The Grand Paradise? Very much yes. Go, and go with an open mind, and a readiness to engage and explore and flirt. If your night was anything like mine, it will be a highly rewarding and transformative experience. For more information, check out their official site.