‘The Grand Paradise’ is a Sensual Staycation

‘The Grand Paradise’ is a Sensual Staycation

©Daria Sneed

Third Rail Projects’ latest immersive theater experience, The Grand Paradise, takes audience members through a 1970s beach resort where you watch—but also join—a family on their life-changing vacation. Performers seduce each other, the family members and participants alike, escorting people from room to room where there could be anything from dancing, to storytelling to slightly more intimate encounters. Wishes, desires and illusions are uncovered and explored during this two-hour tour of tropical endeavors.

While a theater-going experience is always different for each audience member—as interpretation of what one sees/hears/feels is dependent upon the individual—there is an added layer of uniqueness during The Grand Paradise as no one participant’s journey follows the same path as someone else’s.

Upon entering the resort, audience members are guided away from the group by performers, either in small numbers or alone. Activities vary with each room one enters, as you can be invited to watch one of the family members advance their story by getting involved with the resort staff, while other rooms feature a cast member telling stories about hope or longing to whomever is there to listen. And then there are rooms where audience members have one-on-one experiences with the staff. Sometimes there are conversations. Sometimes there aren’t.

At one point, I was approached by the staff member who had been seducing the family’s son. He led me into a bedroom, had me pick a record from his collection and then invited me to lay down on a bed. He traced my fingers with his, and then we held hands and breathed deeply for a little while as music played around us. For me, that was one of the more relaxing participation scenes, as I was asked to dance in another room and my line dancing skills are borderline tragic.

The Grand Paradise is for pleasure-seekers and folks who enjoy watching heightened drama unfurl like a slowly blossoming flower. It is a Choose Your Own Adventure-esque setup, but all the choices are made for you. I was split up from my friend, and we only bumped back into each other on occasion in the main room throughout the night, as we were never in the same smaller groups. On our train ride after the show, we shared what we saw to try and fit our pieces of the puzzle into a bigger picture. I saw scenes (one containing full-frontal nudity) involving the son or one of the daughters and their respective suitors, while my friend saw some scenes featuring the mother. We both saw the father, but at different times during the night. Though we didn’t have everyone’s full story, it was entertaining to make up the rest of the plot ourselves.

I feel it is extremely important to note how hands-on and interactive The Grand Paradise gets before you enter into this fantasy world. You aren’t just asked to watch—you are expected to interact with cast members to the point where they do put their hands on you. Mostly it’s to dance or hold hands as someone guides you to your next encounter, but you will need to be comfortable with strangers getting into your personal space.

The Grand Paradise is staged in Bushwick, Brooklyn at 383 Troutman St. Every trip to this faux-tropical resort yields a different experience. Participants must be 18 or older; alcoholic beverages are available before and during the show.


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