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The cast of "The Great American Trailer Park Christmas Musical."
The cast of "The Great American Trailer Park Christmas Musical."

Theatre Unchained's "Trailer Park Musical" hits all the wrong notes

There was a guy in the audience Friday night who had obviously been overserved and who thought it would be funny to make some mumbling wisecracks every few minutes or so.

The cast of "The Great American Trailer Park Christmas Musical" at Theatre Unchained soldiered onward with their comedy trying to ignore the wisecracker.

Unfortunately, the drunk was the only thing funny about this Christmas show, one that challenged me to figure out what the story was about as I also accepted the challenge of staying awake.

It’s hard to figure out just where to start with this whole thing.

The story is so trite. Trailer park. Drunks. Sluts. Dead people. Poor people. The wily and evil rich guy. Dumb chicks. Rugged guy in love. Trash (people and things).

We have a girl who hates Christmas, then gets shocked and loves Christmas, and then gets shocked back and is angry at everyone and in the end we all live happily ever after.

This might be funny, if it was funny.

Theatre Unchained has mounted two wonderful shows this season, "Carrie: the Musical" and "The Addams Family Musical." This one doesn’t come close to those two.

"Trailer Park" is a musical, about the dumbest musical you could imagine. If you put a bunch of sixth grade boys in a room, gave them a pencil, some paper and a piano, this is the kind of thing they might come up with.

I’m all in favor of bathroom humor, and I like the whole country thing. Give me a drawl and a couple of girls in short skirts, and I can usually find something funny in the whole thing.

This one got off on a horrible foot and never recovered.

There is a lot of exposition in this play. That means one of the actors talks directly to the audience to explain what’s going on. It’s a mark of an amateur production when you have too much exposition. The exposition in this play belonged to an actor named Theresa Drews, who played the matriarch of this penned up slice of life.

This play has been running for awhile now, but it seemed like…

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The joyous birth and sad death of a relationship is told in "The Last 5 Years."
The joyous birth and sad death of a relationship is told in "The Last 5 Years." (Photo: Mark Frohna)

New theater company debuts with a spectacular "The Last 5 Years"

A child was born and he shall lead them!

Sounds like a Christmas story, right? But this one is about the stunning theatrical birth of a brand new theater company that arrived with all the power and emotional tug of the birth of any child.

The company is All In Productions and they opened their life with a stirring mounting of "The Last 5 Years," the quirky and intelligent musical by Jason Robert Brown. This production is a perfect example of the wondrous power of live theater. There is almost no dialogue and rarely do the two actors appear on stage at the same time.

The story is about two people, Jamie Wellerstein and Cathy Hiatt, and the five years they spent together as a couple. The conceit of the play is that each of them tells the story, but she does so from the end and he tells it from the beginning.

The play opens in silence, with Jamie sitting at a table, writing and reading. He leaves and is replaced by Cathy and that’s when the grab begins.

This relationship has ended, although we aren’t quite sure why. But the heartbreak of Cathy is obvious from the first words of her song, the first words we hear from the stage. She sits, alone a their table, a single light shining on her.

"Jamie is over and Jamie is gone.
Jamie's decided it's time to move on.
Jamie has new dreams he's building upon,
And I'm still hurting.

Jamie arrived at the end of the line.
Jamie's convinced that the problems are mine.
Jamie is probably feeling just fine,
And I'm still hurting."

We don’t know anything about this girl or their relationship, but you can feel the hearts of everyone in the audience going out to her, our hands reaching to help her hold on to whatever hope she has left.

The lament of Cathy is soon replaced with Jamie’s "Shiksa Goddess," the buoyant and joyous recounting of their first date and perhaps his first date with a girl who was not a Jew.

"If you had a tattoo, that wouldn't matter.
If you had a shaved head, that would be cool.
If you came from Spain or …

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The mystery of "Who Killed Santa" is playing out this Christmas season.
The mystery of "Who Killed Santa" is playing out this Christmas season.

"Who Killed Santa" proves again there's never too much raunchy fun

Ah Christmas, the time of good cheer. Pastoral visions of snow dappled hills and gentle shepherds tending their flocks with families nestled around a crackling fire and the peace of the holiday wrapping all of mankind in a spiritual warmth.

That’s one Christmas.

And then there is Rudolph, that loveable baby reindeer who is confused about his sexuality but is also convinced that whatever he is, he likes sex. Toss in Tiny Tim in a desperate search for someone to take his virginity and the Little Drummer Girl, who can help Tim and just about any other man who asks. And of course, we have a drunk Santa, a Christmas party where at least one guest is fearful of melting and a mystery that has no obvious ending.  

Welcome to the sixth edition of Neil Haven’s "Who Killed Santa," a holiday gift to the warped and twisted.

The stars of this show are the brilliantly conceived rod puppets created by Dan Katula. They are manipulated by visible on-stage actors. Those are the mechanics.

The only typical character (or actor in costume) is Bo Johnson's take on Santa, who could probably make a slattern out of Mother Theresa. Johnson also manages to throw in Detective Tannenbaum, the Tooth Fairy and Mrs. Claus.

His Santa attacks every girl in sight, insults all of the guests to his workshop and if he was the one in the mall, instead of getting a picture after your visit, you’d meet a lawyer ready to file a sexual assault lawsuit.

The range of characters here is breathtaking. We start with the impossibly dense Frosty the Snowman (Nate Press) who is, as they say, dumber than a box of rocks. He can’t figure out how to avoid heat sources that will make him melt.

There is Rudolph (Sarah Zientek) who exacerbates her/his sexual confusion with a fondness for all things alcohol to either numb or heighten the senses. Rudolph may be gay or may be straight or may even be both or, well, you get the point.

Steve, the Little Drummer Boy (T. Stacy Hicks), seems like he might be the mo…

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Marques Causey and Sasha Katherine Sigel star in "Dutchman."
Marques Causey and Sasha Katherine Sigel star in "Dutchman." (Photo: Maria Pretzl/Nathaniel Schardin)

World's Stage takes a long subway trip to nowhere in "Dutchman"

The country is currently engaged in a discussion about race and politics with a depth and passion not seen since the civil war battles of the 1960s

It would seem the perfect time to stage "Dutchman," the hour-long play by LeRoi Jones that was an incendiary sensation when it first appeared in 1964. The play is a metaphor for all that is white about America and what it means to be a black man in that America.

Even though this is 50 years old, the story has a special resonance in today’s world. It is America the temptress in the character of Lula and the tempted black man in the character of Clay.

The play takes place on a subway car where Clay, studious and buttoned up in his black suit and tie, sits reading a newspaper. Enter Lula, the carnal vixen who sets her eyes on Clay to lure him into a web of something resembling deceit and betrayal.

There is such a misogyny about this that it turns the stomach. Clay succumbs to the blandishment of a promise of getting laid at the end of a long and tortuous night following Lula through the streets of New York, up five flights to her tenement apartment and finally, at long last, doing the nasty.

There is nothing subtle about this play. It hits you right between the eyes and fulfills the mission of The World’s Stage Theatre Company, a troupe that delights in pushing the envelope. An empty envelope, however, is nothing more than an empty envelope.

This is a play that is all about momentum, leading us along, recognizing ourselves and people we know, until the end when Clay explodes with all the rage of the black man buried under oppression.

It is that very momentum that is missing from this production. Instead of weary and frightening seduction, it plays instead like some kind of parlor game where I pretend I’m a slut who wants to take you home and you pretend you are a horny young guy wanting his ashes hauled. Especially with a white ash hauler, always the most forbidden of fruits for a black man.

The problems be…

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