By Andy Dillehay
Doublewide, Texas, The Lofte Community Theatre, March 24, 2023
The Lofte Community Theatre kicked off its 2023 season with a heaping dose of down-home fun. Directed by The Lofte’s artistic director, Kevin Colbert, Doublewide, Texas is a fast-paced crowd pleaser. Written by Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope, and Jamie Wooten, this production feels like a live taping of a sitcom, filled with quick humor, physical comedy, and a cast of quirky characters.
Doublewide, Texas follows a ragtag group of folks occupying an autonomous trailer park just outside of Tugaloo, Texas. When their way of life is threatened by talks of an annexation, the trailer park inhabitants must work alongside neighborly enemies to maintain their independence. While the plot may be a bit thin, it’s the characters that drive this story forward. Colbert has assembled a capable ensemble of actors who rise to the occasion. The cast of nine has clearly done their work, creating fully-realized characters.
While this is an ensemble piece, the Crumpler family is the glue that holds this haven together. As the matriarch Caprice Crumpler, Therese Rennels gives a superb performance. Between her impeccable timing and sardonic delivery, Rennels relishes in the role. Chris Berger’s Norwayne “Baby” Crumpler is a hoot and a half. Berger’s voice work and physicality are impressive and he garnered some of the biggest guffaws of the evening. Acting as the more pragmatic one of the Crumpler clan, Melissa Holder’s Joveeta offers the biggest character arc of this production. Holder delivers a grounded and honest performance.
As the heartbeat of the trailer park, Rosalie Duffy’s Georgia Dean Rudd is a pure joy to watch. Duffy possesses an inherent kindness that shines through in all of the characters that she plays. This is particularly noticeable in her interactions with Roz Parr as Lark Barken. Parr also gives a heartfelt performance as the pregnant (and widowed) recent transplant from Oregon. Rounding out the rest of the trailer park community is Chris Werger as Big Ethel Satterwhite. Werger opens the show with a dry delivery and no-nonsense attitude, which set a great tone for the rest of the play.
John L. Payton’s curmudgeonly Haywood Sloggett provides just the right amount of sass. In a role that could easily be one-dimensional, Payton brings depth and humanity to his character. Neal Herring gives a terrific performance as the studly and slimy Lomax Tanner. Though Miki Valenta’s Starla Pudney only makes a brief appearance, she still makes an indelible impact.
As to be expected, Kathryn Cover did an exceptional job designing costumes for this production. Each character had their own unique sense of style. To maintain that throughout multiple scene changes is no easy feat, but Cover, a true professional, excelled.
In addition to directing this production, Kevin Colbert also served as lighting & scenic designer, as well as the technical director. While it would have been easy to create a caricatured version of a trailer, Colbert did not go in this direction. He created a home, which was very impressive.
While Doublewide, Texas is a charming production filled with homespun humor, the themes of community, finding common ground, and coming together to face adversity are particularly pertinent. One of the most powerful aspects of live theatre/performing arts is the ability to create empathy and connection, things our world needs now more than ever.
If you’ve read past reviews of mine, you may have noticed that I refrain from adding personal anecdotes. Considering the current climate we’re in, it would be negligent of me to not mention some of the feelings I experienced while watching this production. On the same day that Doublewide, Texas opened (March 24, 2023), the Nebraska Legislature’s Judiciary Committee heard testimony on LB371, a bill that would “prohibit a minor under the age of 19 from attending a drag show in Nebraska.” The language of this bill is so broad that it defines a drag show as “a performance in which a performer exhibits a gender identity that is different than a performer’s gender assigned at birth using clothing, makeup, or other physical markers, and the performer sings, lip syncs, dances, or otherwise performs before an audience for entertainment.”
While this is a direct attack on the trans and queer community, the implications of this bill could impact performing arts beyond drag, including establishments like the Lofte Community Theatre and productions like Doublewide, Texas. Watching men put on dresses and wigs is nothing new. The term “drag” is traced back to Shakespeare. However, right now, we’re experiencing the very real possibility that our art could be criminalized.
If you go: Doublewide, Texas runs March 24th to April 2nd Thur-Sat at 7PM and Sundays at 2PM. Ticket information at https://www.lofte.org.
Andy Dillehay is a proud and visibly-queer actor/writer/artist from Lincoln, Nebraska, having been involved with theatre since he was 7 years old.
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