Book writers Marshall Pailet, Bryce Norbitz, and Stephen Wargo, who also provided the gag-laden lyrics, imagine what would happen if the gigantic reptiles portrayed in Michael Crichton's best-selling thriller "Jurassic Park" and the subsequent blockbuster films derived from it formed their own dinosaur society, complete with religion and social norms. The monsters worship the human laboratory, which they believe created them, as a deity ("Thank Lab" is a common expression) and keep well clear of the electrified fence. Trouble occurs when the female creatures begin spontaneously changing gender. It seems that they were assembled with just a hint of frog DNA, which causes some to sprout penises. An inquisitive young velociraptor breaches the barrier in search of answers, and all hell breaks loose.
The slender plot is relayed with tongue firmly in cheek, allowing for satiric barbs on sexual differences. "A dude is sorta like a chick, except they don't ask for directions," explains a scientifically inclined dinosaur to the clueless heroine. The whole ridiculous meshugass is narrated by a white actor (an overly arch Lee Seymour) claiming to be Morgan Freeman, who is frequently mistaken for Samuel L. Jackson by the other characters. This device allows for wisecracks on pop culture and nature documentaries and—this is a stretch—the show's theme of shifting identity.
It's all harmless fun, staged at a dizzying pace by Pailet, who also composed the rock-flavored score. He and choreographer Kyle Mullins economically deploy the seven-member cast around Caite Hevner's theme-park setting as if they were a troupe of well-trained acrobats, with audience members occupying onstage seats. When things get a bit crowded, the actors sit on theatergoers' laps.
Two of the ensemble's standouts are veterans of last season's "Lysistrata Jones": Lindsay Nicole Chambers and Alex Wyse. Chambers makes the intellectual outcast of the tribe a defiant diva, blisteringly delivering a rap number on the benefits of academic reasoning. The subject and the style aren't naturally compatible, but that's the joke, and Chambers brings it off with sassy wit. The male Wyse gives the naive female protagonist a sweetly vacant quality and drives the silly story line with spunk and spark.
Playing a T rex undergoing a gender change, Claire Neumann slyly parodies sexual stereotypes as her character makes bizarre self-discoveries based on her new genital equipment (represented on Dina Perez's clever costumes by a strip of fabric). Shelley Thomas is endearingly confused and then frighteningly full of rage as the gender switcher's loyal friend. Wade McCollum is properly pompous as the clan's overbearing leader. Brandon Espinoza is a limber "Mime-a-saurus," but the physical jokes that Pailet and Mullins have given him get repetitious.
Like the show's dinosaurs, you'll find yourself gobbling up this spicy snack in one gulp, but you'll be hungry again soon afterward.
Presented by Amas Musical Theatre, in association with Flying Squirrel Theatricals, RD Productions, Bulldog Theatrical, P2 Creations, and the Weekly World News, at the SoHo Playhouse, 15 Vandam St., NYC. June 27–Aug. 5. Mon., Tue., Thu.–Sat., 8 p.m.; Sat. and Sun., 4 p.m. (No performance Thu., June 28; Sun., July 1, performance at 8 p.m.) (212) 352-3101, (866) 811-4111, www.theatermania.com, or www.sohoplayhouse.com. Casting by Wojcik/Seay Casting.