IS THAT GUN LOADED? The Trailer Park crew.
Armadillo Acres in the Florida of The Great American Trailer Park Musical may not be a place you want to live, what with the thin walls and occasional gunfire, but it could be a fun place to visit. The Center Stage production in West Kingston is giving us plenty of reason to stick around there for a while (through June 19).
If wacky denizens like these populated every trailer park in Florida, they’d be jammed with tour buses and Disneyland would be a ghost town. As we begin, an entertaining trio is sipping beers in their aluminum folding chairs while a wisecracking Greek chorus comments on the goings-on.
One is Lin (Janine Wiseman) — short for Linolea, because she was born on a kitchen floor — who has been triggering power outages because her husband is on death row, about to be strapped into Ol’ Smokey. “There was a time when a series of sexual favors meant something to a governor,” she laments about an earlier recourse. There is Betty (Jill D. Jones), the park manager, who apparently is enjoying the mayhem too much to put a damper on it. The last of the threesome with sun reflectors under their chins is Pickles (a delightful Alexa Shanahan), a 17-year-old afflicted by hysterical pregnancies and recollections of alien abduction.
They certainly have a lot to keep an eye on and occasionally sing about. In the pink trailer at stage center are Norbert (Douglas Hummel-Price) and his wife Jeannie (Angela Foley). He may be only a tollbooth ticket-taker, but he wants more out of life than an agoraphobic housemate who hasn’t stepped out of their front door for two decades. Their 20th anniversary is coming up, and he hopes that the Ice Capades tickets he got for the occasion will motivate her.
Jeannie is the least flamboyant but she may have the most attention-grabbing role here, as she soulfully sings about her plight and yearns to be free of her phobia. Foley not only provides a good voice but also poignant humor as poor Jeannie keeps trying to step out her front door, looking like she’s bravely about to plunge into a tankful of sharks.
Her competition comes in the shapely form of Pippi (Elyse Tirrell), an exotic dancer on the run from an angry boyfriend. She rents the trailer next door, and when Norbert shows up at the local strip club, he is promptly hooked and reeled in.
This simple story is kept to a snappy 90-plus minutes without intermission. But there is room for some funny asides, such as a dream sequence song and production number titled “The Great American TV Show.” The chorus trio join Pippi and Norbert in one of those ugly confrontation shows that end with rivals in domestic disputes assaulting one another with folding chairs. It’s funnier here than it sounds.
More action that sounds mean but actually is fun comes into the story with Pippi’s homicidal ex, Duke (Joseph Shawn Dingus). He doesn’t appear until the second half, but director Maitland wisely has Dingus introduce his character and the musical to the audience before it begins, so we’re smiling expectantly in advance. Dingus is perfect for the part, with the brawny arms of a mob enforcer but the sweet face, when inhaling cooking spray and such, of a cherubic choir boy.