Lunchbox play packs in the laughs
Lunchbox Theatre presents Tornado Magnet by Darrin Hagen through March 21. Tickets: Call 403-265-4292. – - – ½out of five
Karen Johnson-Diamond plays Dotty Parsons, a trailer park resident with an addiction to Tupperware, in Tornado Magnet.
Photograph by: Lorraine Hjalte, Calgary Herald, Calgary Herald
Trailer Park Boys this ain’t.
Dotty Parsons wants you to know that’s the case from the start of Edmonton playwright Darrin Hagen’s affectionate and frequently very funny look at the community of mobile homes in the solo show Tornado Magnet, which opened Tuesday at Lunch-box Theatre.
So while she hangs out the wash, off to one side of Tornado Magnet’s colourfully busy bric-a-brac-and-milk-crate of a set, Dotty itemizes some of the stereotypes used to identify so-called “trailer trash” –stuff like having curtains in your truck and none on your windows, using blown-out tires as planters on your front step, and so on–before proudly announcing that she, on the other hand, subscribes to none of this, for she is a . . . Trailer Court Woman.
And with that, our irrepressible guide launches into the anthropology, history, and autobiographical detail of life in these “towns of tin”–or, as she puts it, “the trials, the tribulations, the triumphs, the trailers, the trash, the truth.”
(In a Herald interview prior to Tornado Magnet’s Calgary premiere in 2003, playwright Hagen –who grew up in a trailer park outside Rocky Mountain House –recalled seeing red at his first and only glimpse of Trailer Park Boys “because it portrays anyone who lives in a trailer as being inbred, alcoholic, violent and stupid.”)
How Dotty Is Dotty?
Played with a comic heartiness bordering on zeal by Karen Johnson-Diamond, Dotty is like Dame Edna (or the Lindsay Burns of Dough: The Politics of Martha Stewart, for that matter) on speed, as she takes us on a whirlwind tour into a timeless, matriarchal world of Wonder Bread and pink flamingos, where spying is good (it only becomes gossip if you talk about it), where you can borrow everything but your neighbour’s husband, and where you truly judge a Trailer Court Woman by the coffee she makes (“flavoured” meaning “too uppity,” cappuccino meaning “issues,” and of course, “weak” meaning just what it says).
Johnson-Diamond draws on her extensive improv experience in the long-running Monday night soap, Dirty Laundry, to inject a little quick-witted interactive spark of her own into Tornado Magnet by making small talk–real or imagined, it’s hard to tell–with audience members before the show begins.
Directed by Kate Newby, the show, perhaps because of being reduced from its original 65-minute version (in which it was presented by One Yellow Rabbit) to fit the Lunchbox format, moves along very well until the hilariously overdone episode in the latter half of the show where Dotty reveals, with a breathless abandon approaching ecstasy, a profound addiction to containers that hold and lids that seal.
Tupperware, she announces, “is the crack-cocaine of collectibles.”
Johnson-Diamond is obviously at her Dotty-est here–so much so that it makes almost everything which follows (and especially after a reference to the tragic Edmonton twister of 1987 that made tornado magnets out of just about every trailer home in the city) seem somehow less funny.
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