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A F’ing Riot: Local Actors Guild of Saratoga’s The Great American Trailer Park Musical, Review

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Local Actors Guild of Saratoga, The Great American Trailer Park Musical, Review

One of the Year’s Best: The Great American Trailer Park Musical at Saratoga Art Center’s Dee Sarno Theater

Local Actors Guild of SaratogaAs I settled into Saratoga Art Center’s Dee Sarno Theater for The Great American Trailer Park Musical’s last curtain call, the woman sitting to my left, noticing my pen and notebook nudged me and told me with a smile that “this [production] is a fucking riot.”  She continued, “I’d say excuse my language, but you’ll be hearing a lot worse the next hour and a half.”  Before I could say anything, almost on cue, Shania Twain’s “Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under”, which had been playing in the background was cut off and the lights dimmed.

On a handpainted stage adorned with Christmas lights, pink flamingos and a clothesline of bras and wife-beaters, “The Girls” took to their beach chairs to sunbathe with tinfoil reflectors and welcome the audience to Armadillo Acres, Northern Florida’s most exclusive manufactured housing community (aka trailer park) in Starke County. The premise was that we, the audience, must have taken a wrong turn to end up in the tightknit, dead end community, a notion emphasized by the introductory number, “This Side of the Tracks.” Just typing the song’s name puts the catchy tune back in my head. That’s the case with pretty much all the songs—as ridiculous as they may be, they’re all memorable and toe-tapping.

The ever-hospitable Girls are a trio made up of Betty, (Darlene Kelly) the owner of Armadillo Acres, Linoleum, or Lin (Ann Milliken), who fittingly got her name after being born on the kitchen floor, and whose incarcerated husband on death row is awaiting ‘Old Smokey’– the broken electric chair that can only be used when the power goes out in Starke, and Pickles (Mindy Morse), the teenage-bride who gets her name from her perpetual hysterical pregnancies. Kelly, Milliken and Morse had impeccable chemistry and comic timing. Kelly played the role of the Trailer Park-Den Mother, Betty, to a-tee, with a booming set of lungs to match. Milliken was snarky and snappy, and Morse, who in certain moments, stole the show, played dumb as well as she did naive.

Through the gossiping of The Girls, we’re introduced to the musical’s main characters, Norbert (David McMahon) and Jeannie Garstecki (Dawn Oesch). McMahon and Oesch (Oesch, when not acting, is the owner/operator of Saratoga Candy Co.) also worked well together as husband and wife. The high school sweethearts have a milestone, 20-year wedding anniversary a month away but have not made it through 20 years of marriage without their problems. From courtship to a shotgun wedding to a perm so horrible and distracting that it allowed for their baby boy to be stolen, Jeannie, an agoraphobic, has spent the last 20 years as a prisoner to her trailer. Unable to even step foot outside into the horrible, cruel world, toll collector Norbert is fed up with his wife’s condition. He heads to the local strip club—The Litter Box Show Palace—for a beer, where he meets Pippi (Molly McGrath), a stripper on-the-lam from her murderous, marker-sniffing, ex-boyfriend Duke (JJ Buechner).

Pippi and Norbert find solace in each other’s arms and fall into lust after bonding over what it’s like collecting dollar after dollar every night. As they get to know each other, Jeannie struggles to make it out of the trailer in time for their big night, which includes two tickets to the Ice Capades, because “everyone knows entertainment ain’t entertainment unless it takes place on ice.” With Michelle Kwan in her thoughts, bringing her strength, Jeannie makes it out of the trailer only to discover Norbert’s infidelities.

Pippi, ie the fabulous Molly McGrath, is able to spread her vocal wings with the solo, “The Buck Stops Here,” and songs like “But He’s Mine/It’s Never Easy” and “It Doesn’t Take a Genius.” Her voice is phenomenal, and she hits notes that I didn’t know existed.

As if the show and its songs weren’t clever enough, the zany characters take it up yet another notch, equipped with their own unique and quirky dysfunctions.

A big kudos goes out as well to whoever is responsible for designing the Girls’ makeup and costumes, as each donned fantastically horrendous wigs (Betty’s being a bright fire-engine red and Lin wearing a frizz-tastic peroxide blonde with blacker than black roots). Lin wore a sparkly, pink and black striped AC/DC tee, with leopard tights and combat boots. Pickles had jellies on her feet, which I haven’t seen since I was six years old, and Pippi’s cleavage reached the ceiling in every outfit, (and I’m pretty sure her booty-shorts were in fact, boy-short underwear, but hey, she’s a stripper!) Every time Jeannie was on stage, I couldn’t help but giggle at her outfit—an oversized “Frankie Says Relax” t-shirt, “indoor slippers” and housecoat. The men were outfitted in flannel, overalls, trucker and cowboy hats, and for a flashback scene, Norbert wore one of the best blonde mullet wigs I have ever seen.

The set was equally impressive, with set construction by Chet Romanowski and set painter/decorator, Darlene Kelly (yes, the same Darlene Kelly who played Betty in the show). Without tons of room to work with, plywood panels made up Pippi and Jeannie and Norman’s trailers. With a hinge and a hook, Pippi’s trailer could be transformed into the smoky Kitty Litter Show Palace. And while the trailer park remained the main backdrop for the show, with strategic lighting and props, the stage was again transformed into other settings, like a Jerry Springer-esque episode of Sally Jesse Raphael’s talk show or a mall Flan Stand, with the production number, Stand by Your Flan, to accompany it. Jeannie and Norman’s trailer was particularly well done, with its wild-horse wall calendar, portraits of President Obama and Sarah Palin, as well as a collection of hand-crocheted dish towels.

JJ Buechner, the volatile, raccoon-eyed, marker-huffing, Duke, who also directed the show, put it perfectly when he said, “the show may be over-the-top, but the actor’s aren’t.” The ensemble acted as they should, without inhibitions, unafraid of looking dumb or sheepish when they dropped the F-bomb and some other unmentionables. The show indeed, was a “fucking riot.” It’s run is unfortunately over but hopefully you were able to check the hilarity out. If you didn’t, they have a great lip-dub as well as YouTube video-trailers that are worth a peek.

This is definitely a theatre company you’ll want to keep an eye on in the future; click here for more info on the Local Actors Guild of Saratoga.

Aubree Cutkomp is an Assistant Editor for The Free George.

The Free George is the online magazine and visitors’ guide of Upstate NY, covering things from Albany to Lake Placid, including Saratoga, the Lake George region and the Adirondacks. Check out our City Blogs section for our extended coverage areas as well.

Short URL: http://thefreegeorge.com/thefreegeorge/?p=15695

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