Theater Review: "Adaptive Radiation" at Denizen Theater

I recently had the pleasure of attending the world premiere of Hannah Benitez’s remarkable Adaptive Radiation, at Denizen Theater, in New Paltz. The new black-box performance venue is nestled in the back of Water Street Market and the show is Denizen’s second-ever production. Riddled with unexpected laughs, insightful realizations, and a touch of magic, Adaptive Radiation offers a wild journey for viewers to reflect on their own potential, and question the wonder in us all.

Photo Credit: Ryan E. Finzelber

The show compels viewers to earnestly follow the predicaments of four millennials that find themselves at a loss in their lives. No longer in school, working dull jobs, and lacking healthcare, the characters navigate in a world that seems to have no meaning. But, when a mysterious and magical force turns things upside down, the millennials are driven to find what’s important to them and embark on a journey to eliminate the existential dread that has plagued their lives.

Photo Credit: Ryan E. Finzelber

From a quick Wikipedia search, “adaptive radiation” is an evolutionary biology process in which a species rapidly morphs into new forms to accommodate new challenges or resources. After pondering this fact, I believe the play couldn’t better encompass this idea. It is a relatable representation of not just the characters’ magical expedition, but of the daily exploration of our inner selves. Benitez’s clever dialogue captures this “adaptive” essence and keeps the audience guessing, actively engaging the viewer to become part of the “radiation”. Sarah Lynn Brown’s masterful direction of the actors, along with a creative use of props creates a visceral and immersive story that challenges all viewers to question the magic in their own lives and see where it can bring them.

Throughout the play, I found myself laughing and questioning at every turn, and I am considering seeing it again. Being that I was born in the millennial generation, the play resonates with me and I encourage all, both young and old, to go be a part of the journey and attend Adaptive Radiation.

Adaptive Radiation is performed Wednesdays through Saturdays, beginning at 8pm, from December 6 through December 30. 2pm matinées will occur on Sundays. All Wednesday performances will host a “Post-Show Talk Back” with the cast, where the audience can engage. There will be a “Post-Show Informed Panel Discussion” on Thursday, December 20. Tickets and more information can be found at or by phone at (845) 303-4136.

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