Peggy Sue Dunigan
Carte Blanche’s “Trailer Park”

Fun that trades on stereotypes

By - Apr 10th, 2011 11:14 pm
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At the end of  The Great American Trailer Park Musical, the full Carte Blanche Studio cast sings “Like a nail, we press on.”

They refer to press-on fingernails, which reflect a false identity and rarely last more than a few days. This lyric becomes the perfect metaphor for this crazy mix of Li’l Abner comics, Saturday Night Live-style sketches and Doo Wop and girl-group music. Betsy Kelso wrote the music and David Nehls wrote the lyrics for this kitschy, irreverent show, which played Off-Broadway in 2005 and has been produced widely, to mixed reviews, since then. Carte Blanche opened its staging Friday (April 8).

 

Trailer Park purports to offers a slice of life from the other side of the tracks: Armadillo Acres, of Starcke, Florida to be specific. Betty, Lin and Pickles are the park’s muses and Greek chorus.

They suffer their own problems with men. Betty (Lisa Golda) murdered her husband with a frying pan. Lin (Kimber Gerber) awaits her husband’s release from prison. Pickles (Emily Craig) suffers from limited brain activity and hysterical pregnancies. Costumed in the shortest shorts and loose, thin t-shirts, these muses might rise from the Appalachian Mountains in a reincarnation of Daisy Mae. Craig, Golda and Paige still manage to give these disturbing women a presence that may be somewhat appealing on the stage. They focus less on their own woes and more on marital trials of the agoraphobic Jeannie (Michelle White), her toll-collector husband, Norbert Garstecki (Kevin Embrik), and Pippi (Samantha Paige), the stripper who moves in and disrupts life in Armadillo Acres.

A few numbers come straight from the heart, and many of the lines are funny. Director Jimmy Dragolovich stages a worthy production with convincing sets. The cast handles a challenging musical score reasonably well. The cast scored especially in a dream-sequence parody of the Jerry Springer show, with clever lyrics that humiliate Jeannie and Norbert and highlight their tribulations. Clever pop-culture and music references lace the show. The choreography is interesting, and it’s nice to have music director AJ Stibbe and a three-piece band playing live.

But over the course of an evening, like press-on nails, the show starts to fall off. The crazy characters, in the end, offer little insight and promote stereotypes of a marginalized population.

I lived in a Florida trailer park one winter during childhood and through several summer vacations, so the family could put food on the table. I recall no one from that park who resembled any of Kelso and Nehls’ characters. I do remember an engaging vacationing French family (who spoke very little English) next door. Nor was there ever trash on the grounds (as we see on stage).

While these three women may want to “press on” in their lives at the Great American trailer park, the audience might also stop to think about who actually lives on the other side of the tracks.

The Great American Trailer Park Musical runs through May 1 at Carte Blanche Studios, 1024 S. 5th St. Tickets are $20. Follow the link or call 262 716-4689.

Categories: Theater

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