The show, part of the Acrosstown's Local Playwright's Showcase, premiered December 11, 2016 and was a staged reading with only two rehearsals preceding it. And the cast he has assembled were each distinctive and pitch-perfect for the roles they were embodying. The nuts and bolts of the story are as follows: The keepers of a local trailer park have stumbled across the creamated remains of a woman. To somehow honor her memory, whomever she is/was, a big public acknowledgement of her life is planned in the local town square, presided over by no less than Mayor Poe (a fictional character who could easily be a Gainesville mayor). But just prior to the event, we learn the mystery woman was a raging racist who delighted in terrifying the neighborhood children. In other words, she was a piece of shit.
This is our first act, which plays light, funny, sardonic, and cheeky. A couple of the trailer-park characters (credited in the script as The Ensemble) include a cat lady (Did I say lady? Maybe not exactly,) and a man who delights in cooking road kill with an arc welder--weirdly and wonderfully portrayed by Keith E. McInnis. McInnis portrays Mayor Poe as well. Other characters associated with the park include Sarah (Norma Berger), Kate (Kate Holden), Mario (Mills the Dragon), and Sham Sham (Chicago and Gainesville theatre and arts maven, Shamrock McShane), who navigates and gossips around the trailer park on his skateboard scooter like an adult child. All strong performance throughout, and especially in consideration of two-days rehearsal and with scripts-in-hand. In Bobbitt's direction, everybody makes great use of the stage in the blocking with clear intention behind what the characters say and do. But it is the performance of Chad Taylor as Elijah that astounds--going from comic and lighthearted in the first act, to emotionally raw, vulnerable, and revealing in the dark second. Secrets are exposed, which I will keep to myself--for this work shall surely be staged in the future as a full production--but the foundations of everything the audience believes they are going to see are entirely subverted in such a profound way, tears fall in compulsory fashion from actors and audience alike as our protaginist champions the notion of finding compassion for the least and the worst of us; all human beings sharing our own larger trailer park here on Earth. This is when you realize the easy-going light-hearted opening has a diabolical purpose in act II: To drag your cynical emotional core from you and art-stomp some sense into it. We realize these characters (the cat hoarder, the arc-welding chef, the dead lady on the shelf) could easily be the colorful characters we see every day on the streets of Gainesville--all the while forgetting they are people, human beings, once children who played and laughed and had dreams, who in their unfortunate circumstances are doing the best they can with what they have to work with.
The play includes projections, both still and animated, giving us a sense of place and time (Sound by Mandy Fugate and Lighting Design by Aspen Webb). And, as the director strongly cautioned at the beginning of the show, there is a significant trigger warning for anyone sensitive to pounds and pounds of catfood. So put some tissues in your pocket when this show finally opens (you'll need them), and possibly wear safety glasses. Some funerals can be like bone shards and the dust of the universe blown into your eyes through the preverbial fan.
-- Tom Miller
KUDOS to the ART for encouraging and supporting original new works for theatre.