The whistle that the Miss Firecracker pageant organizer, Tessy (Lauren King), blows exemplifies the rather shrill Southern-fried tone of Beth Henley's The Miss Firecracker Contest, on stage at Carlsbad's New Village Arts Theatre through June 29. The antics of a broadly performing cast that includes King, Melissa Coleman-Reed, Kristin Woodburn, Justin Lang and Eddie Yaroch are demonstrated at full volume most of the way, and it gets rather exhausting by the middle of Act 2.
The saving grace of the production is star Samantha Ginn, who portrays Carnelle (aka Carnation) Scott, the self-esteem-challenged gal from a small town in Mississippi who badly wants personal validation by winning the title of Miss Firecracker. Ginn leaves it all out on the stage in an impressive, raw performance that's certainly one of the finest so far on her San Diego-theater résumé. The only thing more amazing than Ginn's energy, honesty and complete lack of self-consciousness is the fact that amid all the ruckus on stage, there was at least one patron the night I attended who somehow nodded off.
"Wake up. You're snoring," I heard the husband whisper to the wife in back of me. How the hell did that happen?
This is a production (directed by Daren Scott) that, without Ginn, would be miss-able on your theater travels. But because of her dedication to making Carnelle come alive, it's a show that will probably outdo your upcoming Fourth of July fireworks experience, wherever that might be.