Book and lyrics: Marshall Pailet, Bryce Norbitz and Steve Wargo; Music: Pailet. At: Circle Theatre at Heartland Studio, 7016 N. Glenwood Ave. Tickets: CircleTheatreChicago.org; $28. Runs through: Aug. 13
I find it a bit of a head-scratcher that some people went so far as to label Triassic Parq: The Musical as a piece of "trans" theater. If I were to be generous, I would describe Circle Theatre's revival of its 2015 musical comedy to be really more of a "fantasy anthropomorphic gender-bender with a semi-queer sensibility."
Somehow, Triassic Parq authors Marshall Pailet, Bryce Norbitz and Steve Wargo all thought it would be funny to have actors portraying dinosaurs. At least that's their approach to this self-aware and sometimes sloppily written musical-comedy spoof of the 1993 film Jurassic Park ( or perhaps it's the 2015 franchise reboot Jurassic World ).
In particular, the authors capitalized on the plot point about how these genetically recreated theme park dinosaurs were bred only to be female. So the conflict arises when one of the two sisterly T-Rex dinosaurs ( Veronica Garza and Erin Daly ) is horrified when she unexpectedly grows a phallus.
Hence the Velociraptor of Faith ( Jacob Richard Axelson ) commands the dinosaur community to shun the unexplained male. Instead, the Velociraptor of Innocence ( Parker Guidry ) goes on a journey of truth by seeking out the banished Velociraptor of Science ( Marissa Druzbanski ).
Oh, yeah: There's more "humor" courtesy of the multiple-role "Mime-a-saurus" ( Patrick Stengle, struggling to get pantomimed laughs ) and the initial narrator Morgan Freeman ( somehow funny, perhaps, because Caucasian actress Caitlin Boho is playing the esteemed African-American actor ). I'm also guessing the visible band is explained away by bringing on the minor background character of Pianosaurus ( Justin Harner, doubling as the show's accompanist ).
Triassic Parq's authors include some seriousness about science versus faith and the acceptance of differences, though their main concern appears to be mocking musical theater conventions and riffing on better-known shows like Wicked and Pippin. They're also dangerously tempting the litigious wrath of composer John Williams by lifting one of his key Jurassic Park leitmotivs.
How funny you find all of this depends on whether you feel a musical spoof of Jurassic Park was entirely necessary. If not, at least you can admire the powerful unamplified vocals of the entire cast under the joint direction of Tommy Bullington and Nicholas Reinhart. Scenic designer Jimmy Jagos and costumer Kat Sass also have some limited-budget fun by cleverly filling out the tiny Heartland Studio.
So I'll leave it up to members of the trans community to embrace or reject Triassic Parq as a piece of representative theater. Or maybe I'm overthinking all of this: The characters are largely dinosaurs, after all.