Small World imagines a disaster on Disney’s most annoying ride | Theater Review | Chicago Reader

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Small World imagines a disaster on Disney’s most annoying ride

New Colony's production dances around juicy subjects without fully committing to any of them.

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Three Disney World cast members find themselves trapped in the smoldering, electrified remains of the "It's a Small World" ride in Jillian Leff and Joe Lino's darkly comedic 85-minute exercise in tonal irony. Like a theme-park-set contemporary No Exit, the trio of clashing personalities—an impaled Mickeyphile (Stephanie Shum), a downtrodden company skeptic (Jackie Seijo), and a conservative, murmuring zealot (Pat Coakley)—work with and against one another to survive an unspecified disaster that's wreaking havoc across the park and maybe the world at large.

One of the New Colony's strengths as a company is that the premise behind each of its new works legitimately feels original and features the sort of creative challenges that require everyone involved in the production to step away from what is easy or expected. Here those include an actor who is floor-bound, an inciting action shrouded in ambiguity, and a looped recording of a song notorious for annoying the hell out of listeners over the course of a 15-minute boat ride—so just imagine the effect after an hour and a half. Director Andrew Hobgood's staging achieves individual moments of grim comedy and otherworldly eeriness—like a survivor using a corpse as a leg weight for ab crunches—but to what end?

The impact isn't as much as you'd think. Leff and Lino's story lightly touches on the merits and liabilities of innocence and optimism, but the backdrop of the largest mega-media conglomerate is mostly underused here as a juxtaposition for the image of burst blood packs. In this loud, mostly prototypical disaster adventure, New Colony dances around juicy topics like culture jamming, capitalism, religious fundamentalism, and anarchy, without committing to any of the above.   v

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