- OnStage Massachusetts Critic
Now on stage at Central Square Theater, presented by Underground Railway Theater, is the world premiere of Laura Maria Censabella’s Paradise. Directed by Shana Gozansky, it features two talented actors portraying compelling and complex characters. Barlow Adamson plays Dr. Guy Royston, a high school biology teacher who wants nothing more than to be back experimenting in the college labs he was blacklisted from. Caitlin Nasema Cassidy plays Yasmeen al-Hamadi, a Muslim-American high school senior from the Bronx, who is intent on getting a full scholarship to Columbia with the hopes of pursuing a career in science. Guided by Dr. Royston, Yasmeen works on a neurobiological experiment to investigate adolescent romantic love. While working together to complete her experiment their beliefs clash, not only about science, but about religion, family, responsibility and obligation and subsequently their lives are transformed.
The classroom set design by Jenna McFarland Lord allowed the audience, who sat on three sides of the stage area, to be very close to the interactions between the characters. The detailed lighting design by Karen Perlow subtly added depth to the scenes, while the sound design by Nathan Leigh kept the changes lively from one scene to the next.
Tensions are high from the start as Yasmeen desperately tries to salvage her 4.0 grade point average after failing her last science test. Cassidy’s portrayal of Yasmeen was very intense. Her mentality, attitude and overall portrayal were all familiarly reminiscent of smart, dedicated students working towards scholarships and an Ivy League school. But her path towards a career as a scientist is compounded by her religious beliefs and obligations and her family responsibility. Contrarily, Adamson’s portrayal of Dr. Royston made him seem more lackadaisical at the start. But once he started working on the experiment with Yasmeen, his joyous passion for science began to show. Each actor carries on an accent during the production, Adamson’s is Virginian while Cassidy’s is Bronx, New York. While each seemed comfortable in their accent, Cassidy’s faded in and out during the performance. The duo displayed a wonderful teacher-student and mentoring relationship. Additionally, they had strong conversational and comedic timing throughout. While the script at times dived deep into scientific jargon, the actors grasp of the language and their execution of it made it easier to understand.
Highlights of act two include Dr. Royston’s scientific juju dance in the first scene. The audience found Adamson’s dancing around the stage very amusing. Another highlight was when Yasmeen (Cassidy) sang a section of the Quran for Dr. Royston. The audience was just as raptured with her voice as he was. It was a one of the most beautiful moments in the production.
Though the story line and performances were interesting to watch, a two-person play that runs over two hours with intermission may be a bit long to sit through. ©
Paradise runs until May 7th, tickets and more information can be found at centralsquaretheater.org. Tickets may also be purchased by calling 617-576-9278 x1 or by visiting the Central Square Theater box office. Ticket prices begin at $20, Seniors save $5, Students with valid University I.D. are $20 and Under 18 are $15. There are also group discounts. Photo Credit: Caitlin Nasema Cassidy and Barlow Adamson in 'Paradise'. Courtesy Central Square Theater.
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