Life isn’t easy for the residents of the Luna Del Mar Manufactured Home Oasis and Monkey Emporium.
This gossipy little enclave in a small Florida town, known as “the penicillin capital of Central Florida,” serves as the kitschy backdrop to all manner of scandals.
There’s the ungodly woman who lives in Trailer 666; the upcoming “Miss Manatee” beauty competition for which no contestants can be found; and, not least, the problem of assembling enough women to participate in the annual drive-by nativity scene in which the infant savior and an Elvis impersonator share star billing.
What to do?
Across 150 largely tedious minutes, visitors to the Manny Fried Playhouse and Subversive Theatre and the Brazen Faced Varlets’ co-production of “Radio TBS” can find out. Though, aside from a few decent quips and a witty pieces of dialogue, it’s tough to find good reasons to do so.
As plotlines for trailer park comedies go (and there are, surprisingly, a lot of them), the one laid out above initially seemed directly in line with my taste for crass and low-brow comedy. But this play by Mark Landon Smith – mounted with all the ameliorative effort in the world by director Kelly M. Beuth and her brave troupe of actors – stretches a potentially side-splitting short comedy into more than two hours of half-baked fart jokes and half-hearted attempts at moralism.
The play is essentially an all-female knockoff of the ever-popular “Greater Tuna” quintet of plays (and, by comparison, makes that collection look like the stuff of Thornton Wilder). With 10 cast members, it lacks the two-hander-tour-de-force novelty of “Greater Tuna,” and its attempts at social commentary are fewer, more strained and far more glib.
For much of its length, Smith’s play is an unserious and campy endeavor with one or two bits of wonderfully bizarre dialogue. (“Your edible bust of Priscilla was delicious,” one character says of another’s strange tribute to Elvis’ ex-wife. “Especially the eyes,” another gleefully responds.) But a dozen or so clever bits of writing and a coterie of indulgent and overwritten caricatures do not a compelling evening make.
What’s worse, Smith holds up certain characters for straight-up, uninflected ridicule – one of them an unambitious, overweight and evidently mentally slow teenage girl. She is subjected to an extended and patently unfunny grilling by a beauty pageant coordinator (Jane Cudmore), whose name, Alveeta, is the funniest thing about her. The segment demotes the play from merely bad to execrable, as Smith’s writing doesn’t go much deeper than “look at this lazy slob.”
That kind of thing can be funny for about 45 seconds. And lest anyone accuse him of being too crass, Smith did try to save things by throwing in an underdeveloped lesson about the hypocrisy of a certain trailer park-dwelling holy roller (Lara D. Haberberger) and another woman with hidden virtues (Theresa DiMuro Wilber). But it’s too little, and far too late.
“Radio TBS,” an uncharacteristically vapid piece of theater for both of its producers, ends up being mostly static.
Two stars (Out of four)
Presented by Subversive Theatre, Thursday-Saturday at 8 p.m. through Dec. 15 in the Manny Fried Playhouse, 255 Great Arrow Ave. Tickets are $15. Call 408-0499 or visit www.subversivetheatre.org.