But then again, it surely seemed to me as if anyone capable of making that phone call was in The Dorset Playhouse, laughing, howling, clapping, whistling, and stamping in the greatest disturbance of the peace Dorset has had in years! My friends, I contributed heartily to the uproar, and I hope you will, too. "The Great American Trailer Park Musical" is the Dorset Players' Fall Show, and it is a riotous, welcome departure from the usual choices for this slot. Change is not only good here: It is a refreshing risk that pays off in laughter dividends. This show contains agoraphobia, adultery, hysterical pregnancy, death row, road kill, strippers, and flan.
Mona Wightman directs with a deft sense of glee, mischief and irony that frees the actors up to have a great time on stage. It's infectious for the audience to see that energy and respond to it, with a true participatory return in frequent bursts of applause and uninhibited laughter.
The girls, played by Ellen Russell (Betty), Darcie Gannon (Lin, short for Linoleum) and Christy Vogel (Pickles) are indefatigable in their ensemble playing, singing, and dancing. The vocals in this show call for some Dolly Partonesque elasticity! Actors, please cosset those voices - your audience doesn't want to miss a syllable! Ellen Russell gets out there front and center at Armadillo Acres and takes charge with a great, confident sense of fun that permeates her singing and dancing and keeps the jokes moving. Newcomer Darcie Gannon draws you in when she delivers her comic monologues, and does a mean disco dance back-up. Christy Vogel's screwball comedy is all gangly, gawky and goofy. She looks like she has lengthened and rubberized her arms and legs! This is particularly hilarious during the number "Storms Are Brewing," when she makes her entrance like a Gumby left out in the Florida sun too long. This number brought down the house. Everyone in it had such a great time I thought the audience was going to storm the stage and join in! The energetic choreography by Erika Schmidt matches the let's-all-sing-along of the rockabilly, disco and R&B music.
Paul Michael Brinker (Norbert) was his own storm up there. He dances, we wanna dance, too! His vocal range and fluidity is showcased in his duet with Susie Reiss (Jeannie), "Owner of My Heart." There is a generosity in his stage presence that raises the energy even more every time he makes an appearance. Susie Reiss' voice has a melodious sweetness and sincerity in it that gives even the most tawdry and ridiculous lyrics emotional color and depth.
Pippi, the stripper on the run, is played by Vanessa L. Beattie. She's got the gamut of gyrations that matches her emotional ups and downs! The latter are illustrated with her ability to hold nothing back vocally during her songs.
Chris Restino (Duke), another actor who has masterfully acted some serious roles for The Players (Amadeus), does a deft comic turn with crazed, manic energy and great bits of business. Every time he does a drawn-out sniff of the markers on his arm, the audience breaks up laughing. He was almost drowned out by the audience response during the "Road Kill" number.
Suzi Dorgeloh is not only the costume mistress and stage manager, she is the highlight of silent physical comedy as "The Bag Lady." The costumes were a terrific amalgam of sequins, spandex, polyester, and a bit of molting marabou. The production ran smoothly without any gaps, and Suzi, as always, had her character's inner life and actions honed to hilarious perfection. The best compliment I overheard during the intermission was, "I would have NEVER known that was Suzi!"
Bill Wightman's set has a cartoon quality that underscores the loopiness of the show. It's a great touch to have the band up there behind some old wire fencing and trash detritus.
They truly become part of the set. Their subtle proximity doesn't drown out the actors, either. Angie Merwin's lighting effects give the Florida sky its own characterization. Lightning flashes, broiling sun, and threatening clouds all make their appearances to herald the next demented revelation.
The Great American Trailer Park Musical contains adult humor and language. So, I encourage all adults in search of a night of raucous, raunchy hilarity to make like a nail and press on to the box office and get your tickets at $25 each. The next shows will be on Friday and Saturday, Oct. 12 and 13 at 7:30 p.m., and on Sunday, Oct. 14 at 2 p.m.
The show is sponsored by The Bank of Bennington, Casella Waste Management, Haskins Gas, Matt Waite Excavation, Inc., Homestead Landscaping, Lang McLaughry Spera, and The Barn Restaurant.