HELL: PARADISE FOUND
July 16, 2012
The dim red lighting surrounding a caped man gives off an eerie vibe…marking the sole dark
moment of the performance as an instant later the lights flash and a musical number ensues
with shimmying, upbeat lyrics “Let’s fall in love!” and two dolled up ladies in red gown. The New York Premiere of Hell: Paradise Found takes the audience on an animated
journey of one man deciding his forever after some bad sushi landed him in the office of Hell.
The newbie to this life after life, he sits back to see a screening of the Adam and Eve fiasco and
is abandoned by a chatty man who holds his file and isn’t keen on letting him run off to Heaven.
This seemingly ‘Joe Schmoe’ lawyer Simon Ackerman (played by Matt Lewis) finds himself
amidst a motley group of characters, both tempting and frightening as they go about living
eternity in Hell over liquor and snide remarks about Heaven’s untalented singers. Clearly an
outcast amongst the secret virgin Don Juan, a sexy Mother Theresa with a Princess Diana pet-
peeve, the crazy Lizzie Borden and an alcoholic Vlad the Impaler, Ackerman debates whether he
belongs in Heaven, as he always thought, or in this intriguing Hell.
Written and directed by Seth Panitch, who also plays the energetic Interviewer at Hell’s gates,
the play is both comical and witty exploring a philosophical realm of what the afterlife could
be: a luring, even enjoyable Hell swarming with interesting people who made distinguishing
decisions in their life – good or bad – or a Heaven, surely pleasant, though full of conformists
who spent their lives obedient and safe.
In particular, Dianne Teague shines as “God” with her endearing performance as gentle yet
omnipotent whether in a golden gown or argyle golf-wear, even showing sadness at her own
decision to banish Lucifer to Hell.
As the performance nears its end at 59E59, Ackerman learns he was jipped of his God-given right to
a ‘defining moment’ (much to God’s bashful dismay). As he is ripped from the underworld to
finish out what should have been his last day on Earth, he ignores the ‘rules’ to do the right thing
in the date rape trial he’s working, finding he may not be all that different from Hell’s forward-
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY – Jennifer Thompson