Category Archives: Blog

Turd Polishing

Earlier I posted a review of a production of The Great American Trailer Park Musical  in which I basically praised the cast and crew, but made a few remarks about how I didn’t care for the source material. This review was part of a deal I had with a friend of mine where he would post my reviews of local events to his website, so he can get content and I can get practice and/or recognition for my site. However, my review was apparently a bit upsetting to someone involved with choosing the productions . I’ve since gotten rid of most of my criticisms in my review. The way I figure it, I’m supposed to help promote these events so I should leave my issues with them out of it. However combating this idea is the idea that even if I’m promoting something, I should be as frank as possible so that the promotion rings true. Also there’s another layer to this, as I don’t necessarily have to promote all the events if I don’t want to, and in fact maybe I shouldn’t.

I don’t do this professionally. I’ve done a lot of reviews of movies and some books on my livejournal page, but those weren’t done with any real attempt at quality. I’ve done one other review for my friend’s site, and that’s it. I don’t work for a newspaper or a magazine. I might like to some day, but I’m doing this in my spare time, and I don’t really have a lot of that. So I’m not as prepared as some to deal with these moral quandaries. Am I peeing in the punch bowl by giving criticisms in my reviews? Or if I don’t give criticism am I being a soulless shill?

My guess is the answer is yes on both counts. So I try to go middle of the road, but in this case going middle of the road means you get hit by both lanes of traffic.

Anyway, I’m being overly dramatic. Unfortunately or fortunately, we live in a world with other people who we sometimes disagree with. I disagree with the person who chose the musical. I think the players did an admirable job polishing it and making it look pretty, but that ultimately GATPM is a turd. That isn’t to say I’m right and the people who like it are wrong. Just that my opinion, amateur though it may be, is that GATPM is a disturbing example of wish fulfillment and has no moral compass.

The reasons I think this are perhaps unique to myself and a small set of people. First off, I don’t find infidelity to be very funny. It’s one of the reasons why I don’t mind that I don’t get Showtime stations in my cable package (watch an episode of Californication if you don’t know what I’m talking about). I’m not married, but my parents still are, and I have friends who are, and so I see marriage as an overall positive thing. Furthermore, while I don’t believe people who cheat on their spouse are going to Hell or anything of the sort, I do think that a marriage is a contract between two people, and if someone breaks that contract, then they are despicable and cannot be trusted. In GATPM, Norbert cheats on his wife the moment he gets a chance, but it’s the wife’s fault he cheats, because she can’t leave the trailer due to her agoraphobia. It’s sickening to me, and that kind of distracts from the humor.

That isn’t the worst part though. Jeannie, Norbert’s wife, has agoraphobia because the last time she left the trailer, her baby was kidnapped. Her. BABY. Was. KIDNAPPED. So she’s afraid to leave her trailer for twenty years. There is no indication however that any attempt was made to try to find the baby. No police were consulted as far as the audience knows. If it weren’t for the fact that the kidnapping is performed on stage, the audience might miss that it even happened in the first place. Nobody seems to care that a baby has been taken from his home by unknown persons. Maybe I wouldn’t be as upset about this if it weren’t for the trial of Casey Anthony that was recently concluded. Kaylee wasn’t kidnapped, of course, but something about watching a baby get stolen while the audience is supposed to laugh reminds me of stuffing a baby in the trunk of a car to go partying. Again, this distracts from the humor.

Finally throughout GATPM, different characters sniff markers to get high off their fumes. I don’t find this particular funny either. Maybe if I didn’t know that a great number of people in trailer parks are addicted to meth or some other drug I would think this was perfectly fine. But I can’t help thinking sniffing markers is a placeholder for all types of drug use, and to see it be promoted to such degree…well again, it distracts from the humor. It’s difficult to say why I have a problem with this and yet still enjoy movies like the Hangover, which blatantly promote drug use.  The humor of the Hangover arises from the characters dealing with the downside of drinking and taking drugs to excess. Another movie I enjoy that promotes drug use is Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and again, its how the character deals with the effects of the drug, and not the taking of the drug itself which is funny.

Perhaps that’s the central issue with GATPM. Sad things happen in the plot, and they’re laughed at, and yet we only rarely see characters dealing with them, which I think is completely backwards. I’ve seen movies about sad subjects from divorce to suicide which were hilarious, but they were funny because of how the characters dealt with the problems, not because of the problems themselves.

GATPM was written by David Nehls and Betsy Kelso. I don’t know what involvement Betsy had in the writing, but I suspect some amount of wish fulfillment on David’s part. Norbert has an affair with a stripper and at some point both his stripper girlfriend and his wife are singing about how much they love him. All is forgiven by the end of the play. There are no repercussions. Granted, this is a comedy, but repercussions can be funny. In fact, I’d say that almost half of comedy is repercussions.

So I think GATPM is a turd. The people who performed it did a good job with it, but that doesn’t change my opinion of the musical.

Yay for digging deeper holes.

 

Review of The Great American Trailer Park Musical

Last Friday I was able to watch a dress rehearsal of The Gaslight Dinner Theatre’s production of The Great American Trailer Park Musical.  The songs and choreography are great, and this production will make for an entertaining night or afternoon out. In particular, if you like musical comedies, but always wished they could be a little more like reality television, this is the show for you.

The play will start showing July 5 and will continue until July 30, with matinees on Tuesday and Thursday at 12 noon and night showings on Fridays and Saturdays at 6:30 pm at the Gaslight Theatre in the Renaissance Center of Dickson, Tennessee. I would advise against bringing children or people who might be offended by lewd behavior to this as there is some objectionable content. There isn’t anything in the musical that is worse than PG-13 really, but there are references and allusions to things that might be difficult to explain to an innocent or pious soul without blushing.

The story of the Great American Trailer Park Musical takes place, appropriately enough, in a trailer park in North Florida. The main characters are Norbert and Jeannie, a married couple living in one of the trailers and Pippi, a stripper who is on the run from her boyfriend. Throughout the play we also hear from three female characters who act as a sort of Greek chorus, explaining the situation and being a sort-of model audience for what happens. Betty is the landlady; Linoleum, who was born on the kitchen floor, has a husband on death row; and the last is Pickles, a young woman with a penchant for having hysterical pregnancies. Pippi’s boyfriend Duke also plays a fairly large role as a marker sniffing, pistol wielding, truck driving, jealous boyfriend who runs over animals on the street with a devil-may-care attitude. At the beginning of the story, Jeannie is afraid to leave the trailer because the last time she went outside, twenty years ago, her baby got kidnapped and, even worse, she got a really bad haircut. Norbert, frustrated with this situation, has an affair with Pippi. After this, you are left to watch the situation boil over.

The action takes place with a cheerful, even celebratory atmosphere. The original production of the musical has been compared to South Park and to some extent the comparison works. Immoral acts and tragic events are depicted through zany song and dance numbers. However, South Park eventually settles into some form of moral statement, even if it is something a bit askew. GATPM never distinguishes between right and wrong. It’s an unhesitating, hedonistic glorification of human folly, much like the talk shows it lampoons during one of its numbers.

This friendly sign greets you when you first enter the theater, welcoming you to the trailer park that is the setting of the musical.

The Gaslight’s production of GATPM was done very well. During the rehearsal, there were a few problems with the set and costuming, which were probably fixed by opening night, but the music and choreography were phenomenal. During one number, Pippi’s boyfriend is depicted driving a truck while swerving and hitting a number of animals. The three members of the chorus back him up with their singing and move him around while carrying flashlights in such a way that the audience gets a distinct image of a truck driving down the road and swerving almost out of control. During another song “Great American Tv Show” a whole Jerry Springer-like production is set up and acted out  during a dream sequence. The quality of these performances  makes the production seem grander and more over-the-top then you might think such a small, intimate stage would allow.

The Gaslight also uses a live band, led by Nathan Brown. The musicians do an amazing job. Productions with recorded music can work, but they sometimes seem bland and antiseptic. Even if nothing else about the musical appeals, it’s worth it for the band and their music. It makes for a warmer and more energetic experience.

Everyone in the cast did well with their roles. Emma Jordan, who plays Pickles, gives her role a delightful effervescence that livens up the whole production. Jenny Norris-Light, who plays Pippi, also does a remarkable job being comically seductive, a task that requires a fair amount of balance. Jama Bowen and Alan Lee, who play Jeannie and Norbert, hold up the center of the cast admirably well. Chris Egging shows great physicality in his role as Duke. Margie Mills gives her character of Linoleum a good deal of brass that works nicely for her. Last, but not least, Paula Makar does probably the most amount of costume changes of the cast as Betty, and actually plays a number of different characters throughout the production, making each one believable even while allowing them to be larger than life.

The Great American Trailer Park Musical may not be for everyone, but the Gaslight Theater does a remarkable job with it. At the very least, it will definitely be something you’ll want to talk about with whomever you see it with.

Horticulture and Etiquette

I’ve been interested in identifying plants recently. I’ve read through Nature’s Garden by Samuel Thayer. An entertaining read, though I’m not sure what my next step is in the horticulture department. I think I just need to find specific plants to identify. Once I have a name I can find out things about them maybe. Except that’s proven frustrating so far. I was hoping to find a book that goes over all the common plants and weeds in the area, and I so far haven’t been able to find one. The good news is I think that means I could write one, which gives me a definite goal to pursue.

Now, my Dad would ask, why don’t you take some classes? And maybe I should. Then again I don’t think there’s a class on all the plants in the area. And if there were, I imagine it would be pretty boring. Furthermore, I don’t have money for classes right now, and I need to find a way to make money…and really this whole plant identification thing is probably a distraction from that. On the other hand, it may very well be how I end up making money. Shrugs all around.

A week or so ago, I went to a writer’s meeting near where I live. I read my flash short story Sympathy there and it was met with praise. Got a few good criticisms too. I need to put another character in it and to clarify a few things.

The most memorable event from the writer’s meeting last week was the cancer survivor who was wanting to convince other people to not be treated for cancer. The whole idea seemed evil to me. She was saying that she was diagnosed with cancer in multiple areas of her body and that she prayed to God (and did “research” ) and decided to go for a “natural cure.” Now, supposedly, she’s free of the disease. Of course my immediate thought was that she never had cancer. That either her doctor had misdiagnosed her, which is perfectly possible given the number of diseases that produce tumor like masses in the body, or she still has cancer, and she’s just in remission. She couldn’t even say what kind of cancer she had. So that makes me suspicious. She might have lied about the whole thing. In any case, I really wanted to have a full on argument with her about it, but I had to be nice.

I still have to be nice. At the moment, she does not yet know my internet alter ego, but I don’t do a good job hiding who I am generally so she might find this post. In that case, yes, Marsha, I’m talking about you. I’m glad you don’t have cancer and that you feel more in tune with God etc., but I think what worked for you, might very well kill someone else, and that you should probably shut up about it.

It makes me wonder about how many dinner parties Hitler went to, and whether anybody said anything to him during one.

Whoops! I’m sorry, Marsha! Did I just compare you to Hitler? Godwin’s Law. I hope we can still be friends.

Even though I think you’re a bit evil.

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