Geneva Anderson digs into art

Review: Finding the treasure in white trash—“The Great American Trailer Park,” at Santa Rosa’s 6th Street Theatre is a campy musical that invites you to get your redneck on….through September 30, 2012

From left to right: Mark Bradbury (Duke), Craig A Miller (Norbert), Julianne Lorenzen (Jeannie), Taylor Bartolucci (Pippi), Daniela Innocenti Beem (Betty), Alise Girard (Pickles) and Shannon Rider (Lin) are all part of 6th Street Playhouse’s “The Great American Trailer Park Musical,” through September 30, 2012. Photo: Eric Chazankin

They didn’t all plan to be neighbors at the Armadillo Acres Trailer Park in North Florida but the fates of a toll collector, his agoraphobic wife, a stripper-on-the-run, her crazy ex, and a trio of busty tube-topped women are all intertwined in the enchanting “The Great American Trailer Park Musical,” which opened Friday at Santa Rosa’s 6th Street Playhouse.  Written by composer/lyricist/actor David Nehls and writer/actor Betsy Kelso, the two-act musical opened in New York in 2004, played off-Broadway and has been produced regionally and internationally ever since.  This love triangle, with its hilarious low-rent twists, has a lot of heart, a lot of dysfunction and snappy, crass, funny songs you’ll find yourself humming on the way home.  6th Street’s Barry Martin is the producer and a talented team of 7 local singers and actors round out the cast.  To add to the fun, 6th Street is encouraging all attendees to dress up in their best “trailer park” fashions and join in on the fun.

The show is staged in 6th Street’s intimate Studio Theatre where the action all unfolds just a few feet from the furthest seat.  The pre-show includes Mark Bradbury’s sign twirling display for Armadillo Arms.  The musical itself opens with the energetic “This side of the Tracks,” sung by the trailer park’s pal-gal trio (also narrators and chorus)— Betty (Daniela Innocenti Beem) the leasing agent and manager of Armadillo Arms; Pickles (Alise Girard), a hysterically pregnant teen; and Lin (named after linoleum) (Shannon Rider) whose husband is in slammer.  These gals, with their ample bewbs spilling forth from their clinging leisure wear, are neither on the “right side” or “wrong side” of the tracks, rather they’re on “this side” of the tracks.  As the women belt out tune after tune, it’s as plain as the nose on your face that these are good-hearted gals who have been through some hard times that have bonded them.  And can they sing!

Daniela Innocenti Beem made a strong impression in the title role in 6th Street’s parody, “The Drowsy Chaperone” in January.  Here, she delivers a glorious Bad Ass Betty, who’s more of an earth mother hidden under some seriously wild hair (wigs marvelously styled by Michael Greene).  Her voice is strong, appealing and memorable, anchoring song after song.  Shannon Rider, of the local Shannon Rider Band, is also impressive.

The story centers on a love triangle between toll collector Norbert Garstecki (6th Street’s Artistic Director, Craig A. Miller), his wife Jeannie Garstecki (Julianne Lorenzen), and Pippi (Taylor Bartolucci DeGuilio).   Jeanie’s been agoraphobic since their son was kidnapped some 20 years ago and she stays inside their trailer timidly watching TV in a fuzzy bathrobe.  When exotic dancer Pippi moves into the trailer right next to theirs, Norbert is magnetized by her fishnet-clad bod and sexuality—and that’s way before she’s pole-danced for him.  Soon they are knee-deep into an affair.  The sparks really start to fly when Jeannie gets wind of her husband’s philandering and when Pippi’s ex shows up with a gun at the trailer park.

The show’s credibility rests on the role of Pippi and Taylor Bartolucci DeGuilio delivers in spades.  She has a radiance and energy and sensuality about her that channels pop-star Mariah Carey and she puts all those netted body-hugging outfits to good use in a very authentic display of pole dancing.  Bartolucci is a stage veteran with more than 60 productions under her belt. She partners with director Barry Martin in Lucky Penny Productions, located in Napa, and the two recently collaborated on 6th Street’s Kiss Me, Kate in 2011, a production voted “Best Local Musical” in the Bay Area awards.  Her Pippi is a likeable, strong woman who is independent and yearning for love and her complex feelings for Norbert are apparent.

Craig A. Miller’s Norbert pulls off some great one-liners as the loving husband with a roving eye.  Miller’s acting and on stage chemistry with both Julianne Lorenzen, as his wife, and with Bartolucci as his new love connection adds a poignancy to the production.  You may remember Lorenzen’ s stand-out performance in The Marvelous Wonderettes in May (ARThound review here.)  She spends most of the musical neurotically trapped in a bathrobe but her burst-out moment is dazzling.

And ARThound has to comment a detail in the scenery that was spot on.   There’s a poster replica of C.M. Coolidge’s famous Dog’s Playing Poker poster on the wall of Norbert and Jeannie’s little trailer.  This is a personification of every man’s hopes and dreams for the future, carrying the subtle message that without risk there is no reward.  We may never know the outcome in life until we lay down our cards but the winner never folds (gives up).  And that’s the spirit that is driving the residents of Armadillo Arms.  And speaking of driving, there’s a fine poster image of Nascar’s beloved Dale Earnhardt on the other wall…I just knew that mild-mannered Norbert had racing in his blood.

Production Team: Directed by Barry Martin; Musical Director Lucas Sherman; Choreograper Alise Girard; Music and Lyrics by David Nehls, Book by Betsy kelso

Cast:  Daniela Innocenti Beem as Betty;  Shannon Rider as Lin; Alise Girard and Natalie Herman as Pickles; Craig A. Miller as Norbert; Taylor Bartolucci DeGuilio as Pippi; Mark Bradbury as Duke

Dress the Part: 6th Street is encouraging all attendees to dress up in their best “trailer park” fashions and join in on the fun.

Details:  The Great American Trailer Park Musical runs through September 30, 2012 at The Studio Theatre at the 6th Street Playhouse, 52 West 6th Street, Santa Rosa.  Shows are 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday with additional 2 p.m. matinee performances on Saturday 9/29 and Sundays 9/16, 9/23 and 9/30. Tickets are $15 to $25 and can be purchased by calling 707-523-4185 x101, or, visiting  Advance ticket purchase recommended as the show has been selling out. Suitable for adults only.

September 13, 2012 Posted by | Theatre | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

review: “Proof,” David Auburn’s play about math and insanity,” adds up to great entertainment, at 6th Street Playhouse through Sunday, February 26, 2012

In David Auburn’s “Proof,” at 6th Street Playhouse in Santa Rosa through February 26, 2012, Alan Kaplan is Robert, a legendary mathematician who lost his mind late in his career and Dana Scott is his brooding mathematically brilliant daughter, Catherine, who cared for him and asserts that she has authored a proof that is about to be posthumously attributed to her father. Photo: Eric Chazankin, courtesy 6th Street Playhouse

What constitutes proof?   In geometry, it’s a sequence of justified conclusions used to prove the validity of an if-then statement.  In a more general sense, it’s evidence or an argument that compels the mind to accept something as true.  In playwright David Auburn’s play “Proof,” which won a Pulitzer in 2001, proving the authorship and validity of a mathematical proof enmesh a devoted daughter, her unstable father—both mathematical geniuses─with her father’s well-meaning student and a visiting sister in a poignant drama about genius, madness and inheritance.   This is a riveting production whose elements─concept, casting, staging─all cohere beautifully at Santa Rosa 6th Street Playhouse’s intimate Studio Theatre.  

Catherine (Dana Scott) functions best in the world of mathematical probability and equations but she dropped out of the University of Chicago’s math program to care for her father, Robert (Alan Kaplan), a brilliant Univeristy of Chicago mathematician who lost his mind late in his career and has spent the last several years filling stacks of notebooks with obsessive notes about observations in his daily life. The play opens on the porch of Robert’s rustic house on the South side of Chicago and an exhausted and depressed Catherine, played convincingly by Healdsburg actress Dana Scott, is mourning his death.  She cared for him through his breakdown, what looked like a promising remission, and then through his final breakdown.  In a series of flashbacks, the audience sees Catherine and her dad conversing and, at times, pouring over proofs.  They shared a very deep and special connection through their mutual love of and talent for mathematics.  The audience slowly discovers that Catherine is troubled herself and mistrusting.  She prefers to keep her talent under tight wraps and feigns ambivalence about her interest in pursuing her math education when she’s confronted but, secretly, she has made plans to pursue her studies at another prestigious Illinois University, Northwestern, which is in the city of Evanston just north of the Chicago city line, where she will not just be “his daughter.”

Mark Bradbury (right) is Hal, a PhD mathematician who is pouring over his mentor, Robert’s notebooks to find an important mathematical proof while sleeping with Catherine (Dana Scott), Robert’s daughter, who claims that she has authored the proof. Photo: Eric Chazankin, courtesy 6th Street Playhouse

Hal (Mark Bradbury), a socially awkward and well-meaning PhD mathematician who was once Robert’s protégée, is also at the cabin, reviewing Robert’s 100 handwritten notebooks for important mathematical discoveries.  Older sister Claire (Jill Zimmerman), a foreign currency analyst, who has flown in from New York for the funeral also arrives at the cabin.  Hal develops a crush on Catherine and, as she warms to him, she gives him a key to a drawer upstairs in the room where Hal has been reviewing her father’s notebooks.  When a promising set of equations is uncovered in a notebook that was in that drawer, Hal attempts to determine the true author, Catherine or her father.  Hal’s attempts to validate the proof are fraught with risks.  He’s sleeping with Catherine and also senses her fragility.  If he proves that the work is her father’s, it could destabilize her and ruin their relationship. If he proves the work is hers, then her father’s legacy will rest on work he accomplished in his early 20’s and his later years will be remembered as those spent in madness and obscurity.  We’re never sure until the end whether Robert had succeeded or whether he was deluded by his illness.  There are other proofs explored as well.  Is Catherine’s depression sufficient evidence to constitute proof that she has inherited their father’s disorder? 

It’s hard to imagine anyone more convincing than Dana Scott in the role of Catherine─brooding, moping, ambivalent, assertive, and insecure─a study in contrasts.  Most actresses, who have tackled this role, can nail the depressed aspect of Catherine’s character but Scott makes us feel that it’s entirely possible that Catherine is flirting with insanity.  Alan Kaplan delivers Robert as a kind-hearted and distracted mathematics genius who’s uncontrollably unsteady.  One moment he’s spouting wisdom and the next he seems confused.  The play’s high points all involve one-on-one scenes between Kaplan and Scott who have spent endless hours formulating theorems in a kind of connect-the dots logic to find a proof.   One of the most poignant and devastating moments comes as a flashback─Catherine comes home to find her father confidant that he has come up with the proof.  She is excited but when she starts to read from his notebook, she realizes it is filled with a logical but ridiculous rambling about the seasons and the change of weather and her hopes on many levels are dashed.   Jill Zimmerman plays the super-efficient older sister Claire as someone who means well but comes on like a freight truck, no matter what she’s talking about.  Mark Bradbury’s Hal is genuine─a sweet trustworthy nerd who carries a backpack crammed with his clothes and drumsticks and who wears his heart on his sleeve.  Paul Gilger’s charming set design─a rustic country cabin porch with maple rocking chairs, newspapers piled high, and plenty of leaves─evokes the simplicity and solitude of the daily life that Catherine and her father led while she cared for him.

In David Auburn’s “Proof,” at Santa Rosa’s 6th Street Playhouse, Dana Scott is Catherine, a brilliant young mathematician suffering from depression who has put her life on hold to care for her aging father, Robert, played by Robert Kaplan. Photo: Eric Chazankin, courtesy 6th Street Playhouse


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Details: 6th Street Playhouse is located at 52 West 6th Street, Santa Rosa.  Proof  has four remaining performances:  Friday, February 24, 2012 at 8 PM; Saturday, February 25, 2012 at 2 PM and 8 PM; and Sunday February 26, 2012 at 2 PM.  Tickets are $10 to $25.  Phone: (707) 523-4`85 or purchase online: or in person.

February 24, 2012 Posted by | Theatre | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment