Hoist a PBR to The Great American Trailer Park Musical
Lin's husband is scheduled for execution, but the electric chair in the big house is so rickety he can only be put to death if everyone in the Armadillo Acres Trailer Park where she lives conserves energy. So she's urging them to keep the lights burning. Betty's husband is already dead and buried on the premises, thanks to a skillfully wielded frying pan. Poor dumb little Pickles says she's suffering a hysterical pregnancy. Hey, she has all the symptoms: When she eats a lot, she puts on weight. Lin, Pickles and Betty serve as a three-girl Greek chorus in The Great American Trailer Park Musical, telling their own stories and the stories of others, taking on various roles as necessary: strippers, figures brandishing toilet brushes in a dream sequence, furry animals about to become roadkill. Into this Florida trailer park erupts Pippi, a stripper on the run from her violent boyfriend, Duke, who fortifies himself whenever his murderous courage starts to fail by sniffing Magic markers. Pippi soon seduces toll-collector Norbert — which is about all Norbert's wife, Jeannie, needs, since she has already borne more troubles than any living woman should endure, from a bad perm to a kidnapped baby to a case of agoraphobia so severe that she can't set foot outside the trailer.
Ignite Theatre sets the tone of the evening before the play begins, selling Pabst Blue Ribbon beer and Hunch Punch (designed to get you as drunk as humanly possible, as cheaply as possible) to an audience that's been invited to dress trashy. So you get a lot of cowboy hats in the audience, and manly biceps bulge beneath cut-off sleeves.
There are jokes about spray cheese, a hilarious sendup of reality shows like Jerry Springer's, insane and embarrassing costumes, and an inspirational song in which all the characters vow to "make like a nail and press on." You could say the musical condescends to trailer-park people, but it's just too lighthearted and cheerfully iconoclastic to get upset about. (I did feel a momentary shudder when Duke pulled out his gun — given the death of Trayvon Martin and what we know about Florida's Stand Your Ground law.) This is simply a silly evening, the kind you have no reason to remember the next morning despite director Pam Clifton's satirical program note about the "complexity of the characters and the authors' grasp of the human condition."
Presented by Ignite Theatre through May 6, Aurora Fox Studio Theatre, 9900 East Colfax Avenue, 720-626-9796, ignitetheatre.com.
The set and costumes are funky budget, the timing could be tighter, and the talents on stage are variable — some folks who sing better than they act, some who can act but don't sing that well. Still, Stephanie Hancock gives Betty a raunchy good humor; Maggie Tisdale displays powerful pipes as Lin, and Alix Brickley makes Pickles sweetly dumb without overdoing it. Patrick Brownson is a properly nebbishy Norbert. Brandon Keller swaggers as Duke — and I suppose it's appropriate that he looks a bit too angelic for the role, despite the black leather jacket. As stripper Pippi, Kia Chapman does amazing things with a pole and reveals a pretty singing voice, and Margie Lamb sings well, too, as confused and unhappy Jeannie.
While the funky, mashed-together quarters of the Aurora Fox's black-box theater are perfect for the trailer-park setting, they're not really great for sound. Which is a shame, because the songs — by Denver native David Nehls — are the best part of the evening.
Get the ICYMI: Today's Top Stories Newsletter Our daily newsletter delivers quick clicks to keep you in the know
Catch up on the day's news and stay informed with our daily digest of the most popular news, music, food and arts stories in Denver, delivered to your inbox Monday through Friday.