Lord, what fools these rednecks be. The Bible-thumping, trailer park set get skewered in Housatrash, a new musical for the hillbilly in all of us. More fun than a Jerry Springer marathon, variety-show host and downtown institution Trav SD's first full-length production is a grab bag of sharp socio-political musings and chicken-fried melodies, with Coors Lite references to boot.
Housatrash is a low-tech, low-class affair: no set, minimal costumes, insufferable puns, men in drag and in gorilla suits. But that's not to say that a first-class intelligence isn't at the wheel of the pick-up truck. Trav SD, who has cemented his downtown reputation as the maestro of irreverence with a series of equally low-rent vaudevilles, is a self-hating smarty pants mocking yokel culture for it's inanities, yet sub-textually yearning for a car seat on his porch.
The play opens on Bob Maggot, a garbage man moonlighting as a Baptist Preacher, who presents himself as the obnoxious and irredeemably ignorant patriarch of the Maggot family. What ensues must be typical throughout most of Appalachia: a glue-sniffing teen runs away from home, a father offers a rifle to his unwilling son as a substitute for masturbation, a trucker vies for 18-wheel immortality and adopts a gorilla as his on-road sidekick. A dark and whimsical web of lust, lies, and family duty is knitted for the audience, and by the end, we are wrapped in a Dixie quilt that's equal parts Dukes of Hazzard and Rodgers and Hammerstein.
The performances are uniformly campy and over the top, complete with cartoon twangs and vapid stares. Chris Cantwell plays the lumbering preacher Bob, a teddy bear evangelist with fanatical views, with a growl and a smirk. As the twisted moral center, Preacher Bob is a villainous prankster propelling and manipulating the action, and drawing laughs from his holy-bull-in-a-china-shop ignorance. Tony Koplin--proving that putting a wig on a man will always be funny--is equally hilarious as Bob's TV-addicted wife, who is obsessed with sordid soap operas and with the possibility that their 16-year-old son might be pleasuring himself. As Toby, the misunderstood teen, Cory Einbinder brings an honest, comic intensity to this innocent intellectual-cum-violent outsider. Downtown diva Reverend Jen Miller turns in a deliciously insipid performance as the corrupting, death-metal chick Joanie. She draws yucks by affecting a Valley girl from hell accent in keeping with the godless mall rat sub-culture the Christian Right loathes so much.
Although Housatrash mocks the "wretched refuse", to borrow a term from the production's subtitle, it is filled with knee-slapping, meta-country-western tunes that would warm the heart of any lonely cowboy. "Red Meat", "Deer Caught In Headlights", and "Haunted House" feature deep-fried melodies that both betray the author's satirical sensibility, and expose him as a boy who probably once dreamed of hauling a rig over state lines.