Native Washingtonian Ron Litman captures the underbelly of the city in his one-man musical satire DC Trash. For the past three years, Litman has worked as a garbage truck driver for the city and brings his experiences to stage in this hilarious and sentimental performance. It’s easy to stay awake and entertained with Litman’s animated gestures and periodic musical numbers accompanied by Tom Pile.
The first character we meet is the mayor of Massachusetts Avenue who is a full time bum and later a self-proclaimed Jesus. Litman’s characterization of the mayor is fluid and convincing. The character comes to life when he begins singing “It’s Raining Bums,” as a take on the 1970’s hit “It’s Raining Men.” Once the audience is warmed up with bum-inspired music we meet the persona of Ron Litman.
Litman dives into an honest portrayal charting his experience as a trash driver from his time spent in the yard to his “apprenticeship”. His tales are engaging and offer a unique perspective that the vast majority of the city’s residents don’t access. Rest assured, Litman knows his trash. He offers a brief but vital breakdown of the trash collecting system in DC with humorous spurts of aggression.
Through his storytelling, Litman humanizes the experience of trash referring to his truck as a “herd of metal.” Because Litman’s specialty is stuff that DC residents throw away he claims to know us well: our patterns, habits and guilty pleasures. He also has an impressive grasp on the city’s geography as he travels it far and wide and knows both its rundown and manicured corners.
Litman describes his experience of being in the trash yard, sandwiched between two of the city’s populations, the African American and Latino communities. His rapport with both communities makes for a fitting title that he deems himself, a DC Homie.
As a born and raised resident of DC and now returned after 35 years, Litman has close ties to the history of racial divides in the city. At moments, he clues us in on how he’s found himself at the crossroads of racial tension with close friends. He reminds us of the city he was raised in, commonly referred to as Chocolate City.
In the second half of Litman’s performance, he invites us into his childhood years. It begins at his parents’ deli, Luros, that was located in Glover Park for twenty-five years where “there was always something cooking.” Litman began working at the deli at age twelve where his family also lived right above. As a result, he never quite escaped the gourmet diet of a Jewish family.
Litman slowly reconstructs his past through cardboard storefronts that he uses to mark the scenery. At this point in the play, Litman becomes especially nostalgic. We experience him returning to a city through the lens of a garbage truck driver whose past is long gone.
The storefronts he knew and grew up in, many of which were owned by his own family members, are now condominiums. The subject of trash triggers a lot in Litman’s story as he is forced to revisit his “ghosts”. His anecdotes are endearing as he pays homage to the mom and pop shops that were once very familiar.
From the characters of the trash yard to Michaele Salahi, you aren’t entirely sure who is going to step out of the trash next.
Though Litman stays close to his audience remaining conversational and laughable. His musical spells are dazzling and give lightness to his scruffy character. For both natives and non-natives to DC, DC Trash is a thought provoking piece of a city whose history is as alive as it’s current urban facade. It’s also a rare opportunity to experience a hidden side of the city that Litman generously shares this with us.
DC Trash has 5 performances, ending July 28, 2012 at The Bedroom at Fort Fringe610 L St NW, Washington, DC.
Details and tickets