"Paradise Lost: Reclaiming Destiny" (Review) -- LA Weekly
As a Puritan, John Milton would almost certainly have disapproved of Paradise Lost: Reclaiming Destiny, Jones Welsh Talmadge’s steamy dance/theater rendering of his classical poem. Nor would he likely countenance some of Talmadge’s revisionist tweaking. For example, the Supreme Deity, traditionally perceived as an angry male patriarch, has been halved into a Father God (J-Walt Adamczyk) and a Mother God (Marguerite French). And in the expulsion from Eden, it is Adam (Leslie Charles Roy, Jr.) rather than Eve (Alina Bolshkova) who first eats the forbidden fruit.
On the other hand, Milton would probably have put his stamp of approval on the ensemble's depiction of ferocious battles between the forces of good and the forces of evil which, like its sensual elements, are brilliantly evoked in a fusion of dance, lighting, costumes, illuminating interactive video and acrobatics, to boot.
The stunning videography has been imaginatively conceived by Adamczyk who, as Father God, opens the play using a hand-held computer device to spin abstract design images on the back wall. As we move into the story, the images colorize and expand to suggest the chaos of Creation, and still later segue into a lush verdant idyllic landscape, which is Eden, where the first two humans caper about like happy fawns.
But we’re still in the creation stage when we’re introduced to the rapacious Satan (Talmadge), who wreaks his contempt on what God has wrought (streaks of red on the backdrop) and is then pitched out of Heaven into Hell, where he hooks up with Sin (a sizzling Laura Covelli) and Death (James Bane), a lumbering, bearish figure. Prior, Satan’s given a couple of chances to mend his ways, but perversely declines.
Collectively choreographed, with leaps and bounds and startling suspensions from the ceiling, the subsequent encounters between Satan’s minions and God’s, led by the noble Archangel Michael (Anne-Marie Talmadge) are enacted with spectacular skill, with the performers utilizing not only their bodies to express emotion but, like any good speaking actor, their faces as well. The striking costumes (Ashphord Jacoway) and fluid lighting (John Bass) enhance the story further. It’s all most impressive.
Although the spectacle is enough to warrant kudos, what marks the show as memorable is how Talmadge has re-interpreted the story to make it contemporary and relevant, and injected psychology into the mix. His Satan is a powerhouse of carnality and venom. Toward the end, there’s a prolonged sequence where Satan separates the passionately devoted Adam and Eve, then proceeds to indoctrinate the trustful Adam step-by-step into the ways of male dominance and wife abuse — until finally the paradise of the spirit he and Eve shared has been destroyed, and we are fast-forwarded to the present.
Originally posted HERE by Deborah Klugman