Written by Rachel Klem and Jeffrey Moore and directed by Klem, A Trailer Park Christmas is a multimedia show. Nine actors perform live onstage, playing 20 characters. Over half of them, accompanied by another 12 characters, also appear in videos that play on the big screen TV. There’s song, there’s dance, there’s karaoke, and there are snacks. And, yes, there’s some good old-fashioned acting.
For the past eight holiday seasons, the Dodson/Hussey clan has been inviting all of their neighbors over to their trailer to celebrate the season. And we (the audience) are the neighbors. As we arrive at the screen door to enter the theater (the Dodsons’ trailer), a member of the family calls out “Come on it!” As pre-show, members of the cast come and go both onstage and among the audience.
Lorraine Dodson (Rachel Klem) scurries around, taking care of this-and-that, keeping family members in line and making us guests feel welcome. Her mother, Meemaw Hussey (Jeffrey Moore), is likewise busy with preliminaries. Lorraine’s husband, Dale Sr. (Steven Warnock), and their two daughters, Dale Jr. (Drina Dunlap) and Jolene (Lindsey House), are also in and out.
By the time the actual show began, we felt we had plenty of background information on these characters and their relationships except, that is, for the one guy asleep on the couch; and he will remain there for most of the show, sleeping through quite a bit of squabbling and excitement.
These characters are all well-meaning (but not-well-off) working-class folks who are trying to have a pleasant Christmas Eve. But there are a few problems.
According to Meemaw, Lorraine can never do anything right — Will Lorraine ever stand up for herself? There is a dispute over ownership of the land — Will the family be evicted? And there is a tornado on the way — Will it be as severe as the one that struck back in (slight pause) “1968” (ominous sound-effect). It seems that a hero had to make a huge sacrifice to save the trailer back then — Will someone have to step forward again this year?
Miranda Alguire makes a brief appearance as Cousin Boo. Shelby Hahn, Rus Hames, and Nancy Pekar divvy up the other 14 characters, each of whom adds various threads to the story.
The furniture and set dressings fairly scream “trailer living room.” The costumes are exactly what we might expect. And the hobbies, aspirations, and obsessions of the characters are all par-for-the-course.
And the audience is part of the show. At various points, the women-folk pass out snacks to the audience. When it’s time for karaoke, the words appear on the TV screen, and we are urged to join in. When everybody joins in a dance, we are invited onstage to take part. Apparently, several Thursday-night audience members had been there before — they came dressed for the occasion.
Naturally, these characters are exaggerated stereotypes, but there is no offense. Common Ground Theatre’s A Trailer Park Christmas is a great way to spend an evening this time of year.
SECOND OPINION: Nov. 30th Durham, NC Indy Week mini-preview by Byron Woods: http://www.indyweek.com/indyweek/a-trailer-park-christmas/Event?oid=5092364.
Common Ground Theatre presents A TRAILER PARK CHRISTMAS at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 10, 2 p.m. Dec. 11, 7:30 p.m. Dec. 15-17, and 2 p.m. Dec. 18 at 4815B Hillsborough Rd., Durham, North Carolina 27705.
TICKETS: $24.80 ($22.73 students and seniors), including service fee.
BOX OFFICE: 919-698-3870 or http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2712654.
Rachel Klem (Durham, NC playwright/performer and NCSU acting coach and instructor): https://theatre.arts.ncsu.edu/our-team/ (N.C. State University Theatre bio).
Jeffrey Moore (Cary, NC playwright/performer): https://www.facebook.com/jeffrey.moore.146 (Facebook page).
Pamela Vesper has been a Raleigh resident for more than 20 years. A local attorney for licensed professionals, when she’s not in court, Pam can be found watching or participating in local theater productions or enjoying the vibrant Raleigh music and craft beer scene. She also loves indie and foreign films and was an anchor on the local cable show, Movie Minutes. Pam has an opinion on just about everything; just ask her. Kurt Benrud is a graduate of Cary High School and N.C. State University, and he has taught English at both. He first became involved in local theater in 1980. He has served on the board of directors for both the Cary Players and the Cary Playwrights’ Forum. He is also a volunteer reader with Triangle Radio Reading Service. Click here to read their reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.