A year ago, I had the opportunity to review Alexander Perez's dark comedy Randy's Dandy Coaster Castle, which follows a team of overworked, underpaid employees at a rundown amusement park already in its death throes. Then playing at IRT, the production was still in its workshop phase, but made for a night of clever, biting comedy nonetheless. Now, with the show making its official world premiere at A.R.T./New York Theatres later this month (directed by Rebecca Martínez and produced by Egg & Spoon Theatre Collective), I got to ask the playwright a few questions about the genesis, journey, and future of Randy's Dandy Coaster Castle.
Where did the idea for Randy's Dandy Coaster Castle come from?
The play originally started at an underground bunker after a nuclear fallout. It was meant to explore that sort of contained existence but as I kept writing, the concept started to muscle out the actual story so I needed to scale down. When thinking about what other places could invoke a similar aura of dread and misery, I thought of my break room at work.
I went to college in Orlando where many of my friends have shared their horror stories working at Disney or Holy Land Experience. My own service experience is mostly in food and hospitality. Though I’ve never worked at one, I landed on a carnival because of the “face” you have to put on for the customers, which anyone who works where other people go to have a good time will tell you is the height of cognitive dissonance.
You’ve been on a bit of a journey with this play. How does it feel to be premiering at A.R.T./New York Theatres?
It’s surreal! A couple years ago a few weeks into lockdown my buddy Toney, who would go on to direct the IRT workshop, suggested we should workshop the piece over Zoom for fun. Now the play has been supported by countless friends and colleagues to make it the best version of itself. I’m just happy to be here and doing my best to recognize my good fortune.
I technically wrote this play, but not without immeasurable support from people who believed in me. Gratitude is the best medicine for imposter syndrome. It may not change how you feel inside, but at least you’ll have said thanks.
Have there been any changes since the workshop production at IRT?
The biggest change in the text is definitely going to be Burgess’ arc. Without spoiling anything, there are aspects about that character’s journey that our current reality has made more pertinent than ever before, so director Rebecca Martínez, the cast, and I are all working together to make certain that we make the most of this opportunity to engage audiences with difficult subject matters in a way that respects its severity but remains tender.
What about this new production are you most excited for audiences to experience?
At the risk of sounding glib, I’m mostly excited to get more audiences in general. I’m proud of the IRT workshop but the space is quite intimate, which served our purposes at the time but now with the resources of Egg & Spoon Theatre Collective, we can realize this world a little more fully than the cardboard facades I cobbled together last year. In my most sadistic moments, I also get quite excited to hear the reaction to the end of the play.
Written by Alexander Perez and directed by Rebecca Martínez, 'Randy's Dandy Coaster Castle' will premiere at the Jeffrey and Paula Gural Theatre at A.R.T./New York Theatres (502 West 53rd Street), August 23-September 2. Tickets ($25-$35) are available for advance purchase at the link below.