Trailer Trash

“The Trials and Tribulations of a Trailer Trash Housewife”
a kate west review
written and directed by Del Shores
at the Zephyr Theater, 7456 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles, call (323) 655-TKTS
March 2003 - Extended!

Some audiences may remember Del Shores recent campy and original film “Sordid Lives,” detailing the lives of trailer park southerners in all its kitschy sordidness. Shores recreates much of the same gently playful references to the foibles of the lower middle class in the recent theatrical hit “Trailer Trash Housewife” but with a much darker edge. Of special note is the musical score, a collaboration between Shores, Producer Sharyn Lane and Composer Joe Patrick Ward, who seamlessly incorporate a live blues singer* (acting as a contemporary Greek chorus), creating a haunting background to a troubled story.

Beth Grant (“Sordid Lives,” “Speed” and “The Rookie”) portrays Willadean, a verbally and physically abused woman with a seemingly hopelessly romantic view of marriage and happiness. Her husband J.D. (David Steen) is a typical insecure bully who keeps his wife oppressed to the point of being afraid of her own shadow. In an effort to hold on to sanity, Willadean fiercely and despairingly repeats her daily mantra, “I am not gonna shrivel up and die!” Grant’s achingly strong portrayal of this beaten woman stubbornly inching her way out of trailer trash park hell is one of the best in character progression. Encouraged by her nurturing friend and neighbor, LaSonia*, Willadean ultimately defies her torturer and embraces her own independence and female identity. The payoff for the audience at that point is worth the entire production. The rest of the cast handle the intense subject matter well - Dale Dickey is a special delight as the trampy waitress Rayleen, whose indiscretion is the catalyst for Willadean’s rebirth. Her sincere commitment to what might have been a stereotypical redneck character becomes magic in her skillful hands. She struts and quips happily as the doomed adulteress.

Ironically, David Steen, as the villain in the piece, does not come across as strong an actor as does the women, which may be due to the intimate nature of this particular theater. Granted, it is uncomfortable enough to witness the violence unfolding right at the audiences’ feet, but it would have been a little more powerful to see him open up full force to the dark side and allow the threat to be a little more menacing. One would think that the audience is mature enough to differentiate between the gentle actor and the horrible character. Nevertheless, he matches Grant’s professionalism solidly, effectively conveying righteous male rage as the classic abuser.

The play develops along a natural progression of human violence and pathos and the actors offer up so much real emotion that the audience is exhausted by the end, worrying and fretting over the fate of the women. Del Shores has written a simple and lovely play which provides intense drama and intends to awaken us to the plight of abused women. Hopefully, it will have the desired effect on at least one person deciding to take fate in her own hands and lead the better life she deserves. Recommended very highly.

* At the time of this review, understudies Pam Trotter and Angela Teele played the roles of LaSonia and the Blues Singer, respectively.

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