The buzzword for this summer in Studio Players' Carriage House Theatre is "trashtastic."
"We coined that term," says Ellen Jenkins, who plays Pickles, the trailer park resident prone to hysterical pregnancies in Studio Players' production of The Great American Trailer Park Musical, which opened Thursday. "It's not trashy trashy. It's more character-cartoony trashy."
Pam Perlman, who plays another trailer park resident, Lin, says, "We get to have a lot of fun with makeup and wigs and spray tans."
Her red-headed co-star Joy Davis' natural look has disappeared under a blond wig and an unnatural skin tone.
It's all in the service of the show from composer David Nehls and writer Betsy Kelso that has been a quiet hit around the country since its off-Broadway run in 2005. Director Tonda-Leah Fields and producer Ellen Hellard say the show came to them via an old Lexington theater friend, Actors Guild of Lexington founder Vic Chaney, who now lives in San Francisco.
"He said, 'It will stretch you because it's a little raunchy,' but he said it's the funniest thing he's seen," Fields says.
The setting is Armadillo Acres Trailer Park in Florida. Among the residents is a Death Row inmate's wife, who is convinced that if everyone keeps their lights on there won't be enough electricity to fire up the electric chair. There's also Pickles (Ellen Jenkins), whose boyfriend might or might not be imaginary and might or might not be gay.
The story centers on Jeannie (Jennifer Parr), who has been scared to come out of her trailer since her son was kidnapped and her toll-collector husband, Norbert (Jason Meenach), has become enamored with Pippi (Heather Parrish), the stripper who moved in across the lot. Pippi is on the run from her ex-boyfriend Duke (Nick Swarts), who has a habit of running over animals when he drives high on fumes from Magic Markers.
The object of the show is to get Jeannie to leave her trailer so she and Norbert can celebrate their 20th anniversary by going to the Ice Capades.
But a lot of other things happen, much of it risqué.
"It's probably around a PG-13," Fields says, adding that some of the language was edited. "There is sex and adultery."
Those are themes addressed in Studio Players' most recent show, the stage version of The Graduate, the tale of a young man having an affair with his fiancée's mother. The play included a scene with an actress onstage with nothing but tassled pasties on her breasts, a story that you could easily imagine in Armadillo Acres.
Of course, the wealthy Southern Californians of The Graduate wouldn't end up on daytime TV talking about their personal travails, as the Armadillo Acres residents do.
The show's segments include The Great American TV Show, in which a Sally Jesse Raphael-like talk show host gets Norbert and Pippi to air their dirty laundry for all to hear and ridicule, including a classic "Oh, no, she didn't!" confrontation.
"If you'd let your kids watch Jerry Springer, you can let them see this," Jenkins says, laughing.
Despite its lowbrow subject matter, Fields and others say Trailer Park is a substantial show with strong music and a good story.
"Some of the songs are just beautiful," Fields says.
Perlman says, "It's really well-crafted music with some great harmonies and wonderful melodies."
That said, it is not as if you will go to The Great American Trailer Park Musical and think you've tripped into a Shakespearean play across town at SummerFest.
That is essential.
Fields and Hellard say that in a world where audiences tend to prefer familiar fare, such as The Graduate, this is a rare show that sells itself.
"When you say 'The Great American Trailer Park Musical,' that pretty much tells you what it's all about," Fields says.
Hellard adds, "When I tell people one of the big numbers is called Road Kill, they say, 'I have to see that.'"
The women talk extensively about the show's adult content, but there is the question of how real-life trailer park residents might feel about the show.
"I think it's pretty clear they aren't trying to portray an actual trailer park," Fields says. "It's all in fun. Let's put it this way: If Armadillo Acres was an actual place, I would want to live there."
Rich Copley: (859) 231-3217. Twitter: @copiousnotes. Blog: Copiousnotes.bloginky.com.