A bumpy ‘Ride’: Amusement park play dizzies but doesn’t dazzle

A bumpy ‘Ride’: Amusement park play dizzies but doesn’t dazzle
Norman Blake

This horror show is light on fright.

The new Halloween play “The Ride Inspector’s Nightmare,” playing in Coney Island until Nov. 1, is creepy, crass, and good for a couple of chuckles.

The immersive play — written and directed by Dick Zigun, founder of Coney Island USA and the neighborhood’s unofficial mayor — invites visitors to the retirement party for Patty McKay, an inspector of amusement park rides. The character, drunken and crooked, but essentially well-meaning, recounts some of his most sordid experiences on the job, including grisly crashes and a dismemberment on the Cyclone rollercoaster — there is a reason they tell you to keep your arms inside the coaster at all times!

McKay is portrayed by comedian and “vocal cartoonist” Zero Boy, who narrates the stories and provides sound effects for the screeching tires and speeding roller coasters cars. He also improvises some of the show’s biggest laughs by riffing off of members of the audience. The theater’s modest size lets each actor banter with the audience during the the show’s humorous moments, which are considerably stronger than its darker depths.

The hour-long show moves like a roller-coaster on the downslope, so each of the morbid moments gets only a short amount of time. The show suffers from the rapid pace, trying to cover so much ground that each vignette is barely established before it is gone and we chug along to the next one. The accidents and crashes depicted don’t have time to make an impact. And despite the show’s abundance of sexual and linguistic profanity, it skimps on the blood and gore, making the gruesome subject matter comes off as somewhat toothless.

The show’s dizzying pace and its wild swings between humor and horror make for an incoherent but often charming production. “The Ride Inspector’s Nightmare” may not be worth a trip to Coney Island on its own. But if you make a visit to the Sodom by the Sea for its rides and attractions, grabbing a beer or five and setting up on the sideshow bleachers would be a fine way to cap off the day.

“The Ride Inspector’s Nightmare” at Coney Island USA [1208 Surf Ave. at W. 12th Street in Coney Island, (718) 372–5159, www.coneyisland.com]. Oct 23–24 at 8 pm, Oct. 25 at 6 pm; Oct. 28–29 at 8 pm, Oct. 30–31 at 8 pm and 10 pm, and Nov. 1 at 6 pm. $15.