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“The joy of Christmas in space” was one.
“A lust for cabbage” was an other. Other than those sensa- tions, it’s hard for me to think of a feeling I did not experience while watching “Doublewide.”
Williamston Theatre’s “Doublewide” —one of four nationwide premieres —inventively conveys a doubly wide range of emotions.
Humor, fear, sexuality, despair, love, heartache, compassion, pathos, hope, bleakness, pity, respect, delight, and frustration are included.
Trust issues, family bonds, coping with a lack of money, and the growing pains of all ages are all touched on in “Doublewide.”
A “double-wide” is a mobile home that combines two trailers. They are generally the top of the line for modular homes.
However, for Big Jim Starkey, who Joseph Albright believably portrays, such a structure is no real home for his blue-collar family. His American Dream is to have a proper house with lots of room.
In Stephen Spotswood’s “Doublewide” play, that dream gets more roadblocks than an unfinished highway with a washed-out bridge that’s expected to be a bank robber’s getaway route.
As those barricades to Big Jim’s goals are gradually revealed, the first act of the over two-hour-with-intermission play has a very different tone than the second. Albright and the entire ensemble portray a myriad of emotions flawlessly as they whirl from more lighthearted moods to gloomier ones.
“Doublewide” never really insults its characters or their stations. It is an insightful glimpse of a typical American family on the fringe that typically gets ignored. What keeps the play from being mundane or boorish is an unpredictable script, a well crafted production, and a gifted cast.
“Doublewide” is made up of short scenes that change quickly. Director Tony Caselli keeps the shifting action and pacing running smoothly. Kirk Domer’s minimal, yet interesting set — superbly embellished by Michelle Raymond — adds atmosphere. Quintessa Gallinat’s accurate sounds, including a surprise gunshot, classily complete the enhancements. I only found the disconnected and unfocused musical inclusions to be odd.
“Doublewide” unfolds like a boiled onion and each character’s image is peeled back to reveal an inner being. The ability of the actors to convey layered personalities is what drew me into its story.
Albright makes an initially oafish dad a likeable teddy bear worthy of hugs. As his daughter, Lorelai, Katelyn Christine Hodge convincingly shows the many facets of an overwrought, yet wise teen. With her razor-sharp expressions, Hodge often dominates the stage. Sean McKeon charmingly plays her infatuated, geeky tutor, Chuck. After a surmised crisis, McKeon realistically shifts to a scared, immature kid with no charm.
Emily Sutton-Smith plays Sharon, the hardworking, quick to swear mom. With a natural ease, Sutton-Smith evolves through depictions of meekness, rage, sauciness, and strength. Brenda Lane is the gambling, sharp-tongued, cigarette smoking Coral. Lane commands the role of the coarse and frank, bighearted grandma who is most enjoyable when she is cranky.
Along with the audience for a packed, official, opening night performance, I laughed, cried, and gasped during the show. When it was over, I felt less hopeful for common folk and uneasiness with some of the character’s outcomes. I especially worried about Lorelai’s choices.
My investment in such matters was proof of experiencing a potent and engaging play. Touché, Williamston Theatre. You got me.
“Doublewide” Through April 22 Williamston Theatre Thursday evenings: $27
Friday and Saturday evenings: $32
Saturday and Sunday matinees: $29 www.williamstontheatre.org