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Sunday, 05 August 2012 22:39

Stray Dog's 'Trailer Park' is deep-fried and deliciously stupid

Written by Robert Mitchell
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straydogtheatre.org
straydogtheatre.org

Looking for a night of highly explosive drama, ear-marked by terse, intense Pulitzer-prize winning dialogue, dense characterizations and high-brow philosophical musings? Then DON'T go anywhere near Stray Dog Theater anytime in the next few weeks.

But if you're looking for laugh-out loud absurdity punctuated by catchy country-tinged tunes and schmaltzy, heartfelt rock ballads, then by all means, head to Stray Dog's current production, The Great American Trailer Park Musical.

Yes, this musical is just as deep-fried and deliciously stupid as the title suggests, but it manages to inject just enough heart for you to care about characters that you normally would run away from as quickly as possible (or, if you've lived in a trailer park in Florida, as my +1 has, then you'd feel right "at home").

The play takes place in Armadilloes Acres, a mobile-home community in Starke, Fla., where a big-haired trio of trailer-parks-girls, Betty, Lin and Pickles, narrate and comment on the story Greek-chorus style, like a corn-poned version of the Andrew sisters. The latest drama in the Acres concerns a couple fast approaching their 20-year anniversary - Norbert, a dim toll-booth operator, and his wife, Jeannie, who is so agoraphobic she hasn't set foot outside the trailer since she had her baby stolen from a box-store parking lot 20 years earlier. When Pippi, an on-the-lam stripper, lands in Starke plying her feminine wiles, even faithful husband Norbert falls prey, and Jeannie needs to overcome her fears of both the outside and the other woman, in order to save her anniversary trip to the Ice Capades. But when Pippi's magic-marker-huffing ex-boyfriend, Duke, shows up from Oklahoma City, all hell breaks loose, and the denizens of The Great American Trailer Park have to use their wits to avoid general murder and mayhem.

Kim Furlow as wise Betty, Kay Love as cynical Lin, and Jessica Tilghman as ditzy pregnant Pickles, provide a lion's share of the evening's comic hijinks deftly switching between Greek Chorus and a handful of other minor characters. All three sing wonderfully; Furlow with a richly smooth vocal blues, Tilghman with a new country pop-princess twang, and Love holding down the middle with a steady "chanteusery". Special props go to Furlow for her turn as a Sally Jesse Raphael-inspired talk show host, and Tilghman as a clueless mall-worker. Zachary Stefaniak is strong as Norbert, making us feel for the sweet, but human, philandering husband. Jamie Lyn Marble gives Pippi the right amount of "hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold. Keith Parker is somehow both goofy and menacing as the jilted Duke - turning in one of the evening's more memorably funny numbers, the Act Two opener, "Road Kill". But the evening belongs to Lindsey Jones as Jeannie, whose sweet, neurotic characterization, and big, soaring singing voice win us over, especially on her big numbers "Flushed Down the Pipes" and "Panic".

Direction by Justin Been mines every bit of fun out of the script, and wisely tempers the outrageous characters with a sense of authenticity and honesty. Musical Direction by Chris Petersen sounds appropriately "trailer-park-y", but sometimes the band over-powered the amplified voices, making it hard to hear all the lyrics. I have a feeling that has more to do with the venues acoustic problems than the overall sound balance. Choreography by J. T. Ricroft is clever and funny, especially in the Act One closer, "Storm's A-Brewin'", but I have to say that was superbly aided by Alexandra Scibetta Quigley's absolutely RIDICULOUS 80's inspired costumes! (Norbert's costume alone is worth the price of admission!

So, if you're more in the mood for a tasty Hostess cake than for an upscale creme brulee, head to Stray Dog, and prepare for a stomach-ache - but this time not because of the deep-fried Twinkie, but because you've laughed so hard.

The Great American Trailer Park Musical continues at Stray Dog until August 18th. For tickets or more information, visit straydogtheatre.org or call 314-865-1995.

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