Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A trailer park takes over Thistle Dew

Courtesy photo

Laura Sheperd, an Elly Award winner, brings a provocative revision of her “Last Resort Trailer Park” to Sacramento’s daring Thistle Dew Dessert Theatre, a haven and inspiration for local playwrights. A cast of oddballs, mainly female, come together in a laughter-filled comedy, set in a Winnemucca, Nevada, trailer park in what looks like a promising inspiration for a very special TV series.

In a revealing comment on her creative inspiration, Sheperd says that her play ideas start with characters, and the drift of the play confirms that process. What plot there is revolves around a minor crime. Somebody stole a truck belonging to Buk (Sean Williams), a habitué of the trailer park, and used it to break into a house on the other side of town.

Hank Trimble (Jeff Webster), a low-key deputy sheriff, seeks out Buk to ask questions, having noted his ownership from documents in the truck and listed under his formal name: Buford Ulysses Kingman. Hank’s “investigation,” in fact, provides one of the shows funnier scenes. For some reason he thinks that getting a DNA sample from Buk will determine the latter’s guilt or innocence. Buk, though, has a pathological fear of sharp instruments and creates a spray of cotton covered sticks, which frustrate Hank.

The play, though, is dominated by its three women. Rhonda (Gay Cooper) owns the park and lives on the premises. She’s the level-headed one who sets off the eccentricities of the other two. Nadine (Noemi C. Rios) is one of the park’s tenants and Buk’s paramour. She has a secret rival in her friend Charlene (Ashley Lucas), who hangs around the park.

One nice touch by Sheperd, who also directs, is an avoidance of glamour. The actors look like ordinary people, the kind we see regularly on lines at a supermarket checkout stand. One offbeat note comes from the Southern accents the characters employ. Though the locale is in Nevada, the characters sound like residents of Dogpatch.

Both Sheperd and Thistle Dew’s artistic director, Thomas M. Kelly, agree that “writing is re-writing.” Kelly, in fact, hosts meetings of playwrights and would-be playwrights at his theater, with sessions free and open to all. In that spirit we can look for possibilities in the current version of “Trailer Park,” now in search of a plot.

One kernel of possibilities lies in a detail from the story. Two characters discover that they are father and son. That’s a provocative situation that could be explored for development. But I may be presumptuous; I’m the critic, not the playwright.

“Last Resort Trailer Park” continues through May 1 at 1901 P Street, Sacramento. Performances are Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets are $25 and include coffee, tea and “decadent desserts,” served during intermission. For tickets and reservations, call 916-444-8209 or go to thistledewplaywrights@yahoo.com.

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