Playwright Clint Jefferies writes with an authentic theatrical voice; he demonstrated this with his play The Jocker a few years back at The Wings Theatre Company on Christopher Street. That story of love among railroad bums and poor farmers was something of a revelation. Now, Jefferies has focused on contemporary subject matter with Strange Bedfellows, a tale set in a trailer park in Oklahoma.
Trailer park plays are almost impossible to pull off; The Baby Dance is one unsuccessful attempt that comes to mind. The genre demands a good cast--and, fortunately, the Wings production of Strange Bedfellows has one.
When Andrew (Jym Winner)--an uptight, depressed, newly single, gay writer from New York City--finds himself on the Oklahoma doorstep of his best friend from college, the howdy-dos and profanities start to fly. Shirley (Carol Nelson), Andrew's old college buddy, is dyed-in-the-wool trailer park trash. Not only does she have two trailers (one for herself and one for her "no good son-of-a-bitch" son), but one of the streamlined wonders is a doublewide. While Andrew is settling into his new digs, Shirley's son Danny (Daniel Carlton), recently banned from his trailer, comes slipping through the window to retrieve some clothes and food. Danny is shacking up on the street with his girlfriend, Lisa (Karen Stanion), a knocked-up smack addict. Yes, Strange Bedfellows sounds like an episode of The Jerry Springer Show. This surely was the playwright's intention.
A solid cast acts the piss and vinegar out of a script that calls for an endless parade of profane words and outrageous actions. The acts of domestic violence are painful but eerily gripping. And, like all good gay plays, this one offers a considerable number of scenes featuring men in briefs and boxers. Overall, Strange Bedfellows is a wild and eventful evening of entertainment. How can you resist lines like "I knew I wasn't Carol Brady, but I really tried with that little shit?" Or, "I trusted you and, all this time, you were banging my son?" Or, "I know I shouldn't smoke, but I'll apologize to the baby later?" There is even a screeching "no wire hangers" moment that would make Joan Crawford proud.
As Danny, Daniel Carlton has the most difficult job on stage. He has to take his character from homophobic prick (with a hair-raising jailhouse secret) to compassionate gay father while keeping the audience's sympathy. This acting journey is a marvel to watch; Carlton gives a complex performance that is well worth remembering and telling others about. Carol Nelson as Shirley, Karen Stanion as Lisa, and Jym Winner as Andrew also have many good moments. Director Jeffrey Corrick (artistic director of Wings) shows considerable skill here, and a talent for working in Southern terrain.
Once again, the Wings Theater has produced a remarkable play on a shoestring budget. At 19 bucks a ticket Strange Bedfellows is easily one of the best bargains in town.