Ah, the sweet old Yuletide spirit at the Everlasting Arms Motor Park -- that placid little Hallmark card vision of the American dream. Grenadine McGunkle, overstressed housewife, is determined nothing will spoil her traditional Christmas barbecue. There will be a thick layer of spray snow on the synthetic tabletop tree and the Styrofoam cooler shall runneth over with Milwaukee's Best.
True, there are a few clouds on the horizon. Dad is catatonic from alcohol in his aluminum folding chair, and son Tater lies snug in his bed, while visions of controlled substances dance in his head. The fact is, as Grenadine laments in her opening song number, she "needs a little Christmas!"
Grenadine McGunkle's Double Wide Christmas, the latest offering from Running With Scissors, has no right to be as funny as it is -- and that makes it all the more enjoyable. The show, which is right at home in the rag-tag nouveau chic of the Sham Sham Club, has a congenial, thrown-together, low production-value feel -- except for Fifi Mahoney's wigs and Roy Haylock's costumes. What makes it work is a droll and jaundiced script by Richard Read, Dorian Rush and Flynn De Marco brought to life by a wonderfully droll and jaundiced ensemble.
Grenadine herself, the formidable Dorian Rush, blithers about as best she can, trying to construct holiday cheer amidst her deconstructed heartland. It ain't easy. Tater (Flynn De Marco), who wears his mullet hair long and stringy and his mechanics jumpsuit zipped open to the navel, has the hots for neighbor Sally Ann. Here, the credits in the playbill rival the zaniness on stage, for Debbie Davis and Marci Hesseling are listed as playing the part -- while, in the cast bios, Richard Read claims it as his drag debut. In any case, Sally Ann is convinced that her ungainly, orthodontically challenged 8-year-old, Sierra Britney (Jason Toups) can blossom into a pageant winner. To demonstrate, the child forsakes her party dress (in which she looks like a walking lampshade) for a girlie-girlie majorette outfit (in which she looks like the lamp). Judging by Sierra Britney's all-heart-and-two-left-feet Britney Spears tribute, the kid's not a "10" in the talent department either.
Meanwhile, the postman rings twice to deliver a present for Grenadine from a mysterious admirer. This postman (the protean and hilarious Bob Edes) is ever-so-sweet and just a tad light in his brogans. In fact, he carols, with a lilting lisp, there's nothing he likes better than "walking around in women's underwear." The gift is a jar of cherry-flavored body butter from which Grenadine recoils in shock and disgust, once she comprehends its intended use (this takes a while, despite a chorus of graphic explanations).
Loretta, an overly fertile, chain-smoking neighbor (played with a deliciously acidic deadpan by Haylock) is not amused by the postman, the body butter, the aspiring beauty queen or anything else. Perhaps those curlers are pulling the beehive out by the roots. Or has the trove of darling babes she's "squeezed out" to up her welfare checks wrecked her nerves, poor dear. "Either put some shoes on or get out of that dumpster!" she screams at one of the brood, while nursing another at her martyred breasts.
But wait, were you afraid that there might be an evil side to this white (trash) Christmas, that bigotry and narrow-mindedness might raise their ugly heads. Not a bit. Mrs. Finklestein (Brian Peterson), a Jewish neighbor, is not only welcome, but sings joyously of "Hanukah in Santa Monica" (from Tom Lehrer's classic). Not to mention a duet with the cross-dressing mailman, who trills "he put the Judy in Judaism."
Finally, the last guest arrives, Lurleen (Laura Freeman), a traffic controller at a nearby display of holiday decorations. Looking like a woebegone Valkyrie in her antlered hard hat and braids, she sings a folk tune about coming out for Christmas.
The ubiquitous Richard Read and Flynn De Marco co-directed this camp confection. It's short, an hour and a quarter or so. There are 11 songs; some originals written by the cast; some traditional carols, whose lyrics have gone awry. Elizabeth Pierce provides the accompaniment on an electric keyboard, with a rinky-dink built-in drum.
I suppose in some sense Grenadine McGunkle's Double Wide Christmas is a satire. But what exactly is being satirized is hard to say. When cocktail wieners are proposed as the hors d'oeuvres, the target is clear. When flaming fruitcake is offered, a very different subculture is taking the hit. The freewheeling silliness spills out in all directions and maybe that's why it seems so full of good cheer.
- Flynn De Marco, Dorian Rush and Jason Toups did trailer-park humor just right in Running With Scissors' latest, Grenadine McGunkle's Double Wide Christmas.