Pile Up On The Interstate
Trent, a failure at life, finds himself back at his old high school taking a course on how to be a long distance truck drive. Learning about folders, zip lock bags, the truck drivers kit, a crisp CV, and always remembering you drive a truck, not trucks, shouldn’t be too taxing for Trent. Nor, luckily, for the rest of his class of wannabe Teamsters, a group of good ol’ boys and some American honey, proving all the redneck, truck driving stereotypes are true. One has two felonies and says nothing else. Another looks like he’s recovering from a lobotomy. Then there’s the girl in the short jeans and the shorter IQ. In “Trucker” quirky characters are New Mexico based writer and performer, Shenoah Allen’s, stock in trade, which he moves between in this one-man show with quicksilver ease. From narrator Trent, the man with the plan who ends up driving a van, through lot lizards and long distance haulers sounding like Antonio Banderas in Expendables 3, Allen’s dark comedy promise a journey it never really takes you on. Instead, it feels like riding in a trucker’s cab through Kansas: you know you’re moving, it just doesn’t feel like you’re going anywhere and the view gets predictable pretty quickly.
With its dark and its comedy kept miles apart, “Trucker” doesn’t seem to know quite what it is. What starts out as an engaging, one-man comedy sketch, brilliant on impressions, lighter on the laughs, ends up as a dark poetic rant of some genuine power following a dark turn of events in an otherwise lacklustre narrative. Yet a turn poorly foreshadowed, which feels like a totally different story tacked on at the end. Instead of a smooth road “Trucker” feels going to watch a comedy at the cinema, leaving midway for some snacks, and walking into the wrong screen on your way back to find yourself looking at a sub-titled, art-house movie on human road kill.
While there’s no denying Allen’s considerable range of talents, “Trucker” is something of a mixed bag, feeling like a journey taken backwards. Initially Allen engages directly, treating the audience as conspiratorial confidants, bringing them nearer as he introduces his fellow learner drivers in an opening sequence which sets up a false contract with the audience and, narratively, goes on for too long. As the audience shift from Trent's confidants to listeners and observers of Trent’s tale, engagement takes something of a step back. By the end the twist might be clever, but the punch is pulled as what’s presented is someone you have been pushed so far back from you no longer enjoy any real connection with him, or with the events. Jokes are also a mixed bag. Allen’s portrayals of Mid-western, hillbilly stereotypes fall comedically short of some of his fellow American comedians like Larry The Cable Guy, Steve McGrew or Jeff Foxworthy. Yet where Allen truly excels is in his superb physical comedy, where duck tape, gestures, or even expressions alone, can have you doubled up with laughter.
In the end “ Trucker” doesn’t really get the balance right. If Allen is a first class impressionist, performer, and comedian, at times it almost feels as if he’s embarrassed by how well he can write. Darker, less humorous, the end might feel polar opposite to what went on in “Trucker” earlier on, but the sense that if both could be brought together there could be something a little bit special here. Instead, the dark and the light feel like two distinct opposites, crashing into one another rather than meeting. Here’s hoping Allen keeps on trucking with “Trucker” and takes it somewhere more worthy of his talents.
“Trucker” by Shenoah Allen, ran as part of Dublin Fringe Festival 2017 at The Project Arts Centre.
For more information, visit Dublin Fringe Festival 2017 or Project Arts Centre.