As of January 1, 2016, Gapers Block has ceased publication. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
 Thank you for your readership and contributions over the past 12-plus years. 

TODAY

Sunday, December 17

Gapers Block
Search

Gapers Block on Facebook Gapers Block on Flickr Gapers Block on Twitter The Gapers Block Tumblr


A/C
« Art Around Town Pint-size Rhyme Spitters »

Theater Fri Aug 17 2012

The Great American Trailer Park Musical @ Theater Wit

It's official: Po' White Trash is The New Black. There. I said it.

TGATPM.jpgThis is the second lower-caste-white-folks-as-jovial-cultural-fodder production that I've reviewed this summer. Then there is "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" -- the 6-year-old recently "retired" plus-szed beauty queen and spawn of this year's Redneck Games burping champ, and of course all of those "Real Housewives" who are indeed "white trash," but they live above the Mason-Dixon line and they've got credit cards and de-plasticized furniture, so we give 'em a pass and categorize them as "eccentric." But I digress.

The Great American White Trash Musical's story opens with Miss Betty (Danni Smith), job-for-life manager of Armadillo Acres (until the inevitable tornado or hurricane hits the trailer park) deftly singing out the sweet nobility and complexities of trailer park life. Betty introduces to the park's Greek Chorus Linoleum (her mama gave birth to her on the kitchen floor, everyone calls her Lin (Ashley Braxton), and by the way Lin's in the middle of a hysterical pregnancy), and Donna, AKA "Pickles" (Jennifer Wisegarver), who for eight years has convinced the whole town and trailer park to burn their lights in perpetuity because her man is on death row and there's not enough electricity running through the country grid to service the customers and also allow the prison to fire up "Old Smoky."

They're a resilient bunch, replete with redneck ingenuity. Add in toll booth operator Norbert (Jonathan Hickerson) and his stay-at-trailer agoraphobic-suffering wife Jeannie (Christina Hall), and we can see the Jerry Springer lift-off from the NASA pad up the road.

Norbert and Jeannie meet in high school, get knocked, get married, have a baby boy and then the baby boy is stolen right from in front of their single-wide. Jeannie gives up on leaving their trailer, and also gives up on housework, too depressed to make much of the rest of her life with Norbert, her neighbors and herself. Norbert is a patient husband, and stands by Jeannie and her life-crushing depression until... runaway Pippi makes her way from her crazed, aerosol can-huffing ex-boyfriend Duke (Alex Grelle) and takes up residence at the last Airstream on the left at Armadillo Acres.

The heat between Norbert and Pippi is intense and passionate, yet doomed from jumpstart; for what else could happen when an illicit couple has relations with the curtains tacked back under the eternal light bulbs that is Armadillo Acres? It all comes to a screeching halt (the "screeching" is Jeannie painfully working her way from sofa to courtyard and witnessing her Norbert and Pippi gettin' it on; the halt is deranged ex-boyfriend Duke crash landing his Pontiac Trans Am (the official car of trailer park residents and mountain folk everywhere) dead into the courtway.

It all comes down to confrontations, confessions, girl fights, drawn pistols, long-lost family reunions, power failures, state executions, and the not-so hysterical birth of the trailer park's first biracial baby. In other words, seasons 1-20 of the Springer Show, set to a winning soundtrack.

Speaking of music, the cast tells its tale in song and soft shoe admirably. Bri Schumacker (Pippi) has an amazing set of pipes -- her part of the duet "He's Mine" and "Make Like a Nail" could hold more than one candle to Reba McIntyre or Gretchen Wilson. Ms. Schumacker should seriously consider buying a ticket to Music Row or Motown.

TGATPM is definitely worth the price of admission: it's funny, it's rousing, albeit not so original -- not anymore, there's too much "Here Comes Mr. & Ms. White Trash America!" currently in our entertainment pipeline. American art has always derived from our cultural, social and economic divisions, yet we never seem to properly synchronize the "gone too far/much too soon/much to much" good taste modulators. It's as if the one group of folks left to mock/laugh at/chastise/make reality TV cannon fodder are white people who happen to be poor -- generation upon generation. There also seems to be the lingering aftertaste that "there's fun" in being impoverished and disenfranchised -- reminds me of one of my white elementary teachers telling me that slavery was "not so bad" and that some of the masters were "quite benevolent" to their slaves. Perhaps it was all of those nineteenth century lithographs featuring slaves dancing and singing. Trust me: the jovialness was under duress and suicide was not an option. And growing up in Oklahoma, I befriended kids from families that were literally "po'er than the dirt (they) slept in." (Now there's an analogy you don't hear over Sunday brunch in Lakeview!) Over the years, some of them I've stayed in close contact with, and I can feel the bristle of their "OMG" disapproving whispers on the back of my neck, visualize the humiliation on their faces, much like when my "'po white friend" Natalie was told not to come back to our school until her parents could afford to buy her shoes. Natalie's family resided at a trailer park, too. 'Cause see, if you don't have a reality TV show deal, or an invitation to Nashville's Music Row, then the label of "po white" and "trailer trash" become your debilitating caste system, in perpetuity, just as President Andrew Jackson visualized the chattel slavery system. But why solve poverty and social misery when we can laugh at and tap our toes to it?

TGATPM is fun, quick-witted and filled-to-the brim with talent. "Good Times" for Middle-Class White Folks!

The Great American Trailer Park Musical plays through Aug. 26 at Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont. For tickets visit kokandyproductions.com or call the box office at 773-975-8150.

 
GB store
GB store

Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »

Blogroll

ACRE
An Angry White Guy
Antena
AREA Chicago
ArchitectureChicago Plus
Arts Engagement Exchange
The Art Letter
Art or Idiocy?
Art Slant Chicago
Art Talk Chicago
Bad at Sports
Bite and Smile
Brian Dickie of COT
Bridgeport International
Carrie Secrist Gallery
Chainsaw Calligraphy
Chicago Art Blog
Chicago Art Department
Chicago Art Examiner
Chicago Art Journal
Chicago Artists Resource
Chicago Art Map
Chicago Art Review
Chicago Classical Music
Chicago Comedy Examiner
Chicago Cultural Center
Chicago Daily Views
Chicago Film Examiner
Chicago Film Archives
Chicago Gallery News
Chicago Uncommon
Collaboraction
Contemporary Art Space
Co-op Image Group
Co-Prosperity Sphere
Chicago Urban Art Society
Creative Control
Defibrillator
Devening Projects
Digressions
DIY Film
ebersmoore
The Exhibition Agency
The Flatiron Project
F newsmagazine
The Gallery Crawl...
Galerie F
The Gaudy God
Happy Dog Gallery
HollywoodChicago
Homeroom Chicago
I, Homunculus
Hyde Park Artcenter Blog
InCUBATE
Joyce Owens: Artist on Art
J-Pointe
Julius Caesar
Kasia Kay Gallery
Kavi Gupta Gallery
Rob Kozlowski
Lookingglass Theatre Blog
Lumpen Blog
Marquee
Mess Hall
N'DIGO
Neoteric Art
NewcityArt
NewcityFilm
NewcityStage
Not If But When
Noun and Verb
On Film
On the Make
Onstage
Peanut Gallery
Peregrine Program
Performink
The Poor Choices Show
Pop Up Art Loop
The Post Family
The Recycled Film
Reversible Eye
Rhona Hoffman Gallery
Roots & Culture Gallery
SAIC Blog
The Seen
Sharkforum
Sisterman Vintage
Site of Big Shoulders
Sixty Inches From Center
Soleil's To-Do's
Sometimes Store
Steppenwolf.blog
Stop Go Stop
Storefront Rebellion
TOC Blog
Theater for the Future
Theatre in Chicago
The Franklin
The Mission
The Theater Loop
Thomas Robertello Gallery
threewalls
Time Tells Tony Wight Gallery
Uncommon Photographers
The Unscene Chicago
The Visualist
Vocalo
Western Exhibitions
What's Going On?
What to Wear During an Orange Alert?
You, Me, Them, Everybody
Zg Gallery

GB store

 

Events


A/C on Flickr

Join the A/C Flickr Pool.



About A/C

A/C is the arts and culture section of Gapers Block, covering the many forms of expression on display in Chicago. More...
Please see our submission guidelines.

Editor: Nancy Bishop, nancy@gapersblock.com
A/C staff inbox: ac@gapersblock.com

Archives

 

A/C Flickr Pool
 Subscribe in a reader.

GB store

GB Store

GB Buttons $1.50

GB T-Shirt $12

I ✶ Chi T-Shirts $15