By Daniel Skora
The Starkeys live in a doublewide, one of those prefab homes that gives those who dwell within several hundred additional square feet of living space even while providing a more discriminating way of making it known to friends and acquaintances that the place they call home is but a mere trailer. Doublewide it may be, but it’s a trailer nonetheless, and there are not many who would make it a life’s goal to live their lives totally in a trailer or a doublewide.
Williamston Theatre is presenting “Doublewide”, playwright Stephen Spotswood’s take on a family that lives in a doublewide in a small town not far away, as the program describes its location. Big Jim (Joseph Albright) is a blue collar worker and a family guy no different from any other of his kind. He enjoys a cold beer when he comes home from work and goes hunting in the fall. His wife Sharon (Emily Sutton-Smith) works as a cashier at the local Walmart. Both have a great deal of affection for their daughter Lorelai (Katelyn Christine Hodge), now a high school student who works evenings as a waitress. That job, as well as a general disinterest in anything academic, has caused her to fall behind in her studies. That’s where Chuck (Sean McKeon) comes in. He’s a classmate who has known Lorelai throughout grade school and has undertaken the task of helping her with her assignments. Big Jim’s retired mother Coral (Brenda Lane) makes frequent stops at her son’s place as she travels to and from the nearby casino where she likes to play the slots.
That casino is causing Jim a great deal of consternation. Business has been so good there that the county road commission has talked about enlarging the highway over which casino traffic must travel. To make that enlargement would require the county’s acquisition of a good part of the one-acre parcel of land upon which Jim’s doublewide rests. Jim has always dreamed of building a permanent home on that property, and as the play opens, a letter arrives in the mail telling him that plans for the highway expansion have been finalized and are being set into motion. Jim must be prepared to have the size of his property shrink significantly. And this comes at a time when his wife is experiencing health problems because of a back condition caused by the endless hours she spends working the cash register at Walmart as well as concern over his daughter’s mood swings caused by her not doing well at school coupled with having boyfriend problems.
“Doublewide” is a fairly accurate portrayal of a normal working class family whose fortunes are often controlled by forces beyond their control. The Starkey parents are hard working people whose financial situation has prevented their dreams of a better life from becoming reality.
Comedy rules through most of the first act, much of it supplied by the sharp-tongued Coral (Lane). The second act does a one-eighty, with the mood shifting dramatically after the family is hit with another major crisis.
Williamston’s production, directed by Tony Caselli, features a uniformly good cast. Jim is the character around which much of the play centers and in that role, Albright is exceptional. The set, designed by Kirk Domer, is realistic, with the close proximity of the Starke’s living room to Lorelai’s bedroom attesting to the fact that even in a doublewide, floor space can be a precious commodity. Thematically, the play deals with issues like family, love, and hope; it has no major plotline, and yet, perhaps that’s as it should be. Thoreau wrote that “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation”, and the Starkeys and others like them – blue collar, hard working people, living from paycheck to paycheck, surviving in large part on the love they share with each other, are the kind to which the evolving story of history pays no heed.
Lighting design for the show is by Dana White, sound by Quintessa Gallinat. Costumes are by Holly Iler, with props courtesy of Michelle Raymond. Stage manager for the production is Stefanie Din.
“Doublewide” runs through April 22nd. Tickets can be purchased by phone Tuesday through Friday from Noon to 6:00p.m., by calling 1.517.655.7469, by visiting the Williamston box office, or ordered online up until 24 hours prior to the performance at www.williamstontheatre.org. Williamston Theatre is located at 122 S. Putnam Road in downtown Williamston. If you’re westward bound on I-96, exit at 117.