Playwright Alexander Perez has staked out his claim on a fresh setting for his Randy’s Dandy Coaster Castle: a second-rate amusement park in Florida. There the boss and his employees mull their present and future as they try to keep the park alive.
Schubert (Susana Montoya Quinchia, tough with a gooey center) has been promoted to the position of manager and is proud of her new gold name tag. She has several issues, though. She now has to lord it over the other employees, including her fiancé, Rye (Omar Perez, solid and attractive) who has put on a devil-may-care attitude towards work. He has a penchant for smoking and sharing pot in the employee break room with newbie, eager-beaver Burgess (Katherine George, perfectly enjoyable in this role) and sweet-natured Arlo (Adam Coy, energetic and loveable).
The owner of this Coaster Castle is Ramón, aka Randy, who does a great imitation of a Simon Legree-lite as he manipulates his employees—though they don’t always kowtow to him. Nate Betancourt makes the character and his conflicts vivid and almost sympathetic.
Coaster begins in the break room (simple, but functional, set by Michael Ruiz-Del-Vizo) where Rye is giving the lowdown to Burgess, quizzing her on the lingo of the midway, a lecture interrupted by Schubert doing her best to act tough but not really succeeding. Burgess, trying to impress the others, takes on a task that is doomed to failure—all part of her good-natured initiation.
Ramón is worried about the competition, mainly Six Flags in nearby Georgia, and has to figure out how to increase business and avoid being ruined by that mega-threat. His over-reaction includes trying to reduce the work force while making them do more work. He runs up against his new sergeant-at-arms, Schubert, when he rescinds her previously approved personal day off so that she could tend to her dying mother.
Part of Ramón’s game plan to increase attendance is to create a Randy’s Dandy Coaster Castle mascot. In a move that changes his life, Arlo is drafted to don a hilarious, smelly rat costume transforming himself into the character Kuddly Kyle. Suddenly Arlo, the sweet, directionless shlub has found meaning in his life via this subterfuge. While in the costume, Arlo is the delightfully entertaining Kyle. Without the costume, he’s just Arlo.
This is the most moving part of Coaster, a play that revolves around the emotions and inner lives of these everyday, working class characters, beautifully evoked by Perez and carefully chaperoned by director, Rebecca Martínez to keep it all down to earth and accessible. The fade-out is particularly moving as the workers have no idea that there is a disaster looming. Their lives will be changed—for the worse.
Susana Montoya Quinchia in a scene from Alexander Perez’s “Randy’s Dandy Coaster Castle” at A.R.T./New York Theatres (Photo credit: Carol Rosegg)
Marissa Menezes’ costumes, including colorful vests and shirts with logos, help create this microcosm while Vittoria Orlando’s lighting clearly defines mood and place.
Randy’s Dandy Coaster Castle is produced by the Egg & Spoon Theatre Collective.
Randy’s Dandy Coaster Castle (through September 2, 2022)
Egg & Spoon Theatre Collective
Jeffrey and Paula Gural Theatre at A.R.T./New York Theatres, 502 West 53rd Street, in Manhattan
Running time: 90 minutes without an intermission