It's The Crappiest Place on Earth in The New Colony's 'Small World'
Updated: Oct 4, 2019
It's the end of the world as they know it in The New Colony's latest world premiere. Currently playing at The Den Theatre, three Disney World employees find themselves in a predicament their training of constant smiling and amusement park knowledge couldn't possibly prepare them for. Over the course of eighty-five minutes, they work to live happily ever after in a post storybook ending world.
A chim chiminey, chim chim cher-oo pre-show announcement skirts off the rails as it's interrupted by blood curdling screams, cries of panic, and overlapping fits of yelling. It makes the Tower of Terror seem like child's play as the choice to be trapped on a Disney World ride would be anything but It's a Small World. Co-writers Jillian Leff and Joe Lino find a practically perfect setting for a modern, Sartre stylish, hell that makes you question why the concept hasn't appeared onstage until now.
The play's setting offers a plethora of plight with blood and smoke stained uniforms, sinking set pieces, and "It's a Small World" playing on both a nail screeching on a chalkboard and biting, incessant loop. Kudos to costume designer Uriel Gomez for their fairy godparent like abilities in their dressings of horror and prime blood work that would have the creators of Santa Clarita Diet salivating. Scenic designer Sotirios Livaditis takes an equally beloved and detested attraction to feel like we're just as trapped as the actors. There's no getting off this ride, and with the price of admission you get far more than you could have ever imagined.
The situation would make anyone cry bippity boppity boo hoo, but this dark tale produces roaring bursts of laughter. There's a wise trajectory of making the absurdity of these tragic circumstances feel as hilarious as possible, with the stakes of the matter increasing in solemness over time from the vision of founding artistic director, Andrew Hobgood. Not so Prince Charming Donny (Patriac Coakley) mansplains at every turn means of escape, the born and raised, Disneyophile Kim (New Colony co-artistic director Stephanie Shum, WHO BRILLIANTLY PERFORMS THE ENTIRE SHOW WITH AN IMPALED LEG WHICH CANNOT BE OVERSTATED) and Becca (Jackie Seijo), who blisteringly, but beautifully blunders in the middle of the two and represents our closest source of relatability.
The trio keeps on swimming, despite all odds that they won't at last see the light of tomorrow. Humor fires off in the beginning like a cannon, and rekindles when needed flickering here and there, shifting as fast as their expectations. Like any Disney film, we come for the hakuna matatas, but wade in the emotional, but necessary waters of loss. When not cracking spot on Disney jokes, Kim shows beneath her tendency to delve into fantasy and naivete, she seeks the basic need of friendship. Becca reveals the scope of her backstory in achingly truthful fragments, shattering the conceit of heteronormative fairy tales one badass quip at a time.
These unforeseen moments make it thrilling to be a part of their world, but others leave questions. Teases of flirtation between Kim and Donny feels like smoke without fire, which they are literally miles away from. Donny's arc quickly accelerates from Shep of Southern Charm infamy to L. Ron Hubbard level of contempt. Kim and Donny navigate planes of making characters who border on cartoonish believable, while Becca is the only one who comes from and exists in a place grounded in reality.
While some of the wishes granted could have been best kept in a golden lamp, Small World is a rollicking ride where when it achieves its best moments feels truly magical. There are twists and turns aplenty with whozits and whatzits galore. Its penultimate ending will have you staggering back to reality nauseous, exhilarated, and a bit terrified. As we leave a world of hopes and a world of fears, we return to one of our own. After all, it's a small world...