SALT LAKE CITY — Trash! is a play performed at the Great Salt Lake Fringe Festival and written by Mark Macey. It shows the story of three garbage men in a futuristic setting who are struggling with their new jobs of assisting the government in genocide. One complains and decides death is a better option than being jobless. Then, with the assistance of a narrator, the story jumps to the two girls escaping and they find a dead girl that one of them used to be friends with. After they go offstage to bury her, the narrator reappears and berates the audience for not paying attention to what is happening. “There is a fire burning!” is his repeated cry.
Director Alex Coltrin did a fine job of blocking and staging the show, and such movement changes were very engaging for me. The pacing at the beginning was much too slow, but thankfully the second half picked up. The stage was very interesting, with a unique look of lit closet light bulbs upside down on the floor lining the edges of the set. Boxed into this space were plenty of recyclables, with one large armchair and a ladder. The finishing touch was the cowboy narrator, played by Joshua Joules, who sat in the chair for a minute before starting the show.
Joules was excellent at keeping the audience interested with his strong stage presence. But I wish his face had been better lit for the ending when he gave the moralistic speech. Mick was played by Wendy Dang, and she portrayed a white male character well for the first half, while in the second half was so strong in her fearful state as one of the targets of the genocide. Peihui Wu and Gabriela Flores seemed less practiced than the others, as Flores turned her back to the audience so often that I found her performance disengaging. Wu stared at me for a while during the first half, and I wondered if my note taking was disrupting her acting. However, both were engaging during their exchange about Flores doing “his” job. And Wu had some great energy with sadness during Flores’ effective depiction of a dead body.
The makeup at the beginning to show that the girls were white males was not very convincing. Masks may have been better, or even more of a white skin tone makeup, though the contrast between bright white paint and their cleaned natural faces for the second half was a good choice. It helped the white men seem less human in comparison with the diverse girls in the second act.
My biggest concern was the lecture to the audience at the end. I hadn’t seen enough to find the connection between the portrayal of genocide in the future and how it related to the world today. I was still immersed in their story needed more for it to feel complete. If the characters could have gone further back to the current time to show why the future was so bleak, Trash! would have fit better. But that could have also caused it to be a full-length play and not appropriate for Fringe.
The narrator was amusing, and his speeches were all about him doing his job, until he came close to the audience to preach. At that point, the character was invasive and slightly annoying because of that lack of connecting from now to that future. Also, this speech could have been better put into a dialogue between characters and not shouted at the audience.
There are a lot of great things in Trash! But to be truly successful, it needs is more of the action and dialogue and less of the lecturing.