Music and Lyrics by Jordan Kamalu
Directed and Choreographed by Jeff Whiting
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited
“Single Wide” is a charming musical with an interesting book, a pleasing country-rock score with solid lyrics. The creative writing team of George D. Nelson and Jordan Kamalu has constructed an engaging musical with strong well-rounded characters with authentic and believable conflicts (problems), with an interesting setting, and strong rich themes. The conflicts drive a powerful plot with enough tension to make the story line sustainable and absorbing.
Katy (played with a redemptive sadness by Emma Stratton) and her mother Amanda (played with the strength of a protective hopefulness by Stacia Fernandez) have had a rough time and are trying to make a new start so Katy’s son Sam (played with an endearing and reparatory charm by Matt Miner) won’t have to “end up just like [them].” Both work tirelessly and hope soon to leave the trailer park where they live. Flossie (played with joyful decadence by Jacqueline Petroccia) occupies an adjacent trailer and does all she can to snag a man, most often making poor choices and not spending much time regretting those choices. Maclain Nelson portrays Flossie’s beaus including Bodie (the perhaps keeper). Freddi (Maya Landau) and Ali (Alex Lanning) round out the women living from paycheck to paycheck and ready for a life they feel is long overdue. It seems the consistent problem for all of these women has been unreliable, unfaithful, and unappreciative men.
The trailer park is a dysfunctional family and it is unlikely anyone would be able to escape their “Microwave Life.” This setting (brilliant design by Jason Ardizzone-West) is a trope (here an extended metaphor) for all life’s situations where people feel stuck, disenfranchised, betrayed, cheated, ignored, discounted, discouraged, or marginalized in any way. Into this dysfunctional family enters a guy named Guy (perhaps an Everyman or an Anyman) played with stunning energy by the remarkable Derek Carley. Guy comes to the trailer park to drink away his problems including his PTSD after serving in Afghanistan but instead, after being befriended by Sam, becomes the catalyst for significant change.
This change agent has his work cut out for him in the person of Flossie who, despite knowing Katy likes Guy (Sam sets that one up), is determined to win him over with her charms (“The World Revolves Around Me”). If there is any disappointment with “Single Wide” it is with the character of Flossie (not with Ms. Petroccia’s spot-on portrayal of that character). Flossie needs a morally ambiguous backbone. She is too flat and her begonia “children” do not give her enough dimension to balance likability with dislike.
It is difficult to say more about Flossie’s attempt to betray Katy without a spoiler alert. Under Jeff Whiting’s deft and decisive direction, the ensemble cast keeps the action moving with enough twists and turns to keep the audience in suspense and completely engaged. The chemistry between Guy and Sam is electric and charged with emotion and attributable to the extraordinary craft of Mr. Carley and the young Mr. Miner.
The musical numbers in “Half Wide” are all effective. Standing out are Derek Carley’s interpretation of Guy’s “Till It Feels Like Home,” “Just Takes One” sung by Stacia Fernandez, and the trio sung by Emma Stratton (Katy), Derek Carley (Guy), and Jacqueline Petroccia (Flossie). “Single Wide” is a new musical for all those who believe in the redemptive power of unconditional and non-judgmental love and the resilience of the human spirit. Hopefully it will find a home on another stage very soon.