Great American Trash at the Unicorn

Writing reviews for Unicorn Theatre shows is tricky business. Unicorn shows are usually controversial and not necessarily for all audiences. After all, the season opener was about child torture and fratricide. Their mission in life is to provoke thought in the mind of the viewer. However, the fine folks at 38th and Main Street also know how to have a good time.
The Great American Trailer Park Musical is a fun, funny, and fundamentally American play. It takes place in the town of Stark, Florida, which is a real town known for its prison and electric chair. In this town, according to the play, is a trailer park named Armadillo Acres. The main residents we meet at the beginning are three hysterical, cynical, foul-mouthed ladies – Betty, the manager of the property, Lin (which is short for Linoleum), who loves a sense of danger in her life, and Pickles, so-named for her tendency to have hysterical pregnancies.
The three ladies serve as a sort of white-trash Greek chorus in the style of the Supremes. They sing and bounce and narrate our sojourn through the misadventures of several denizens of the trailer park. These other citizens are an agoraphobic housewife, her fed-up husband, and a stripper on the run from her boyfriend. Of course, it doesn’t take Paris Hilton to see that the husband and the stripper are on a collision course for love. At least, until her magic-marker sniffing boyfriend tracks her down.
The show is not only a good-natured celebration of trailer-park stereotypes, but a virtual living museum of white-trash pop culture references. Not only the songs, but also in the little touches of the dialogue and characters’ body language, the play is right on the money. However, without some kind of drama, this show would amount to nothing more than a better-than-average show at the American Heartland Theatre. The conflict between the husband and wife, Jeannie and Norbert, provide for some poignant moments; Jeannie is dealing with past traumas that prevent her from ever leaving her trailer, and Norbert shows genuine conflict between loyalty to his sick wife and his desire for some fun after 20 long dry years.
As good as the script is, the show would be nothing without the characters. This ensemble is so well put-together, I can think of no better way to cast it. The three ladies (Cathy Barnett, Teri Adams, and Julie Taylor) are arguably the hinge of the play. They trade times in the spotlight – not to mention one-liners – exuding a sense of confidence and self comfort that only the lower-class has. Of course, this is what also makes them so likable. Especially to gay men, who will fall in love with each one of them.
However, not to be outdone, all the characters have their chance to shine, and they each steal at least a scene or two. Jessalyn Kincaid is the too-tired-for-her-age stripper, who manages to exhibit a mixture of both sultriness and innocence that would be maddening for the average straight guy. Karen Errington and James Wright are the troubled married couple, and provide some genuinely touching moments. Jake Walker had regrettably the smallest role in the show, being a great brain-dead but not-really-bad delinquent boyfriend.
The show is rather short, running barely 90 minutes with no intermission, but it’s exactly the right length for a show of this type. The live band (which is unfortunately hidden throughout the show behind a trailer) strikes exactly the right balance of spunk and volume. Combine that with catchy tunes, fun lyrics, and laugh-out-loud characters, and you have a great evening’s entertainment for almost anyone. For those who usually find the Unicorn’s subject matter too heavy, this may provide a delightfully breezy change of pace.

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