A 40-year-old groupie of the 1980’s British rock band Whitesnake, who is severely down on her luck, wants to sleep in a convenience store while she tries to figure out how to get her life back on track. Seriously? No, not seriously. Rather, this is the plot line of Jacqueline Goldfinger’s world premiere comedy, Trish Tinkler Gets Saved. This outrageous yet sentimental play was commissioned by Unexpected Stage Company for the Women’s Voices Theater Festival. More than 50 theaters in the greater Washington, DC metropolitan area are participating in the Festival, which features new work by female playwrights, and Trish Tinkler Gets Saved is a notable example of that work.
The multi-talented Kristen Jepperson plays Trish Tinkler with all the quirkiness the role requires. Trish is the perfect embodiment of “Murphy’s Law” (anything that can go wrong, will go wrong). One minute, the die-hard fan is happily riding on a tour bus with her beloved Whitesnake, and the next minute, the bus takes off and leaves her behind—with no money and no place to sleep. Trish is in deep denial, believing that her abandonment was totally inadvertent and that the bus would be back to pick her up the next day. So, she makes her way to an Eat ‘n’ Save mini-mart to mooch off a couple of her friends for the night.
Like Trish, the proprietors of the convenience store are—to say the least—somewhat outside the mainstream. For starters, Rhonda (Rachael Murray) is a former stripper and Jan (Amanda Spellman) dresses like a bear. They are in love and want to get married, but it turns out that the couple is actually operating the store illegally. They found the store abandoned and started fixing it up and running it unofficially. They have to sleep in the back room because they can’t afford an apartment, and much of their inventory is off-brand merchandise that fell off the back of a Dollar Tree delivery truck. Worse yet, a representative from the Eat ‘n’ Save corporate headquarters has issued a cease and desist order and is coming the next morning to do an inspection.
So, the last thing Rhonda and Jan need is a “friend” who has no money and no concept of what it means to be an adult—even at age 40! Nevertheless, after an argument and a physical altercation, Trish is allowed to stay. She desperately wants to earn her keep and comes up with an idea that might actually save the store. All of a sudden, a god-like “presence” in the voice of Whitesnake front man David Coverdale calls Trish on the telephone and promises her that she can live happily ever after. Is it fantasy or reality? Is it divine intervention? What will she decide to do?
Director Christopher Goodrich skillfully brings out the best in his performers. For example, when Trish describes how she first tried to become “cool,” she is sad and funny at the same time. We had similar mixed emotions when Trish told the story of the time she was photographed with Whitesnake for People Magazine, but there was a staple across her face and no one could recognize her.
Set Designer Kathleen Miller, Sound Designer Robert Pike, Lighting Designer Gary Hauptman, and Prop Designer John Barbee collaborate to paint a depressing picture of a tacky, low-budget, working-class store. Disposable diapers, canned soup, and cereal boxes line the shelves. The names of some of the items for sale are off by one letter, such as “Hershay” chocolate bars and “Ritzy” crackers. Since the neighborhood is transitioning to upscale condominiums, the women are concerned that such merchandise will not attract enough customers to keep the store afloat.
Trish Tinkler Gets Saved is a moving character study as well as an outrageous comedy. Although Trish is off-beat, off-the-wall, unique, and downright weird in many ways, she is searching for happiness and fulfillment just like the rest of us. The playwright’s imagination takes us on a delightful journey through the psyche of a modern woman that is well worth the trip.
Unexpected Stage Company’s Trish Tinkler Gets Saved is both fun and inspiring, poignant, and powerful, with heartwarming humor and irreverent zaniness, plus a few tears along the way. It’s a “divine comedy”!
Running Time: Approximately 70 minutes, with no intermission.
Trish Tinkler Gets Saved plays through October 18, 2015 at Unexpected Stage Company, performing at the Randolph Road Theater – 4010 Randolph Road in Wheaton, MD. For tickets, call (800) 838-3006, or purchase them online.