Tahoe whim trail

Guilty Pleasures

A bunch of petty criminals are forced to create a play in order to serve their sentences in this Tahoe-centric play.

A bunch of petty criminals are forced to create a play in order to serve their sentences in this Tahoe-centric play.

Rated 4.0

Guilty Pleasures takes local theater to a new level. Featuring local players, created by local playwrights, housed in an intimate local playhouse (and how much more Tahoe can you get than to perform your play in a converted Boathouse?), it spotlights Tahoe-specific culture and habits to hilarious effect. After pegging the truths of living around the lake, and leaving more than one person in the audience wondering, “Where could they possibly go from here?” the production moves on to poke fun at the absurdities of our national culture. Guilty Pleasures, now in its third year—this summer featuring a few new songs—is well on its way to becoming a must-see Tahoe tradition.

The premise for Guilty Pleasures is as follows: Petty criminals, all of whom have been found to have some background in theater, are required to serve their community-service sentences by creating and performing a musical-theater production.

In the first half of the play, the players, their overseeing officer, Dick Wacker (Kurt Munger), and the audience wait for the arrival of the judge so that the “criminals” can perform their production. During the wait, the group begins discussing local issues. One after another, the actors present their Tahoe-centric observations and annoyances in song.

Chad, played by three-time Guilty Pleasures veteran Chris Taylor, sings about slow-moving traffic caused by lake looky-loos, lost tourists and long-time locals who are fervent about driving the speed limit. Bob (Jim Rollins), who is also making his third appearance, leads the song “TRPA” (Tahoe Regional Planning Agency), which alludes to the harsh, possibly corrupt, realities of this powerful public outfit.

Singing that “Tahoe has so much to give, but it’s so hard to live,” Linda (Pamela Taylor) tells us about the difficulties of Tahoe living—low wages and high cost of living. The stress of this is clearly what made her snap at her kid’s soccer game landing herself a verbal-assault charge. Shannon Dolan, whose beautiful singing voice is noteworthy, plays easy-breezy, kindhearted Summer who explains to us the slower pace of life in Tahoe with “Tahoe Time.”

Tough-talking Officer Wacker opens the second half of the show by singing about his latent desire to be a rock ‘n’ roll star: “You get to sell your soul for sex and drugs and rock ‘n’ roll.” It’s funny. And silly. An unexpected revelation.

The “real” play the lawbreakers are supposed to perform begins with characters reading from national headlines, “California cows not as happy as they appear on TV” and “Mother only communicates with children through text messaging” among them. Songs and scenes observing the ridiculousness of our national culture—reality TV, our extreme consumerism and obsession with fame—are just as spot-on as those more local in flavor. Commentary is valid, humorous and clever. When bandanna-clad Dillan (Mark Williams) refashions his T-shirt into a belly shirt to show off his rhinestone-festooned bellybutton and to perform his clichéd pop song and dance about his longing for Britney Spears (to the tune of “Oops! … I Did it Again"), the tears of laughter rain free.

Smartly, creators David Hamilton and Mark D. Williams didn’t diminish the validity of the Tahoe-specific quirks or national idiosyncrasies with overdoses of camp or exaggeration. They “keep it real,” adding in silliness to an enjoyable degree. Guilty Pleasures is real fun, a burgeoning tradition that needs be kept alive.