Sunday, November 25, 2012
Theatre Alliance presents 'Sordid Lives' - again
Posted: Saturday, November 24, 2012 11:14 pm
Lynn Felder/Special Correspondent
Just when you thought it was safe to come out of the closet, Mama Peggy goes and ships you off to the loony bin to get you “dehomosexualized.” But that’s OK. She gets the ultimate comeuppance when she trips over her lover’s wooden legs, hits her head on the sink and dies.
Peggy’s Bible-thumping family is horrified, and chaos ensues. This is the stuff of Del Shores’ “Sordid Lives,” which opens Friday at the Theatre Alliance of Winston-Salem.
It’s the third time that Theatre Alliance has done “Sordid Lives,” the third time that Jamie Lawson has directed it, the third time that Gray Smith has played Brother Boy, and the third time that Cheryl Ann Roberts has played (sister) Latrelle.
As explained by Roberts, “Sordid Lives” is a play in four “chapters.” In the first, the sisters — Latrelle and LaVonda (Ally McCauley) get together with their Aunt Sissy (April Linscott) to discuss their mother’s death, argue over a fur stole, fight about whether or not to keep Brother Boy in the mental hospital and convince Latrelle that her son, Ty (John C. Wilson), is gay.
“Our mother has died under very interesting circumstances.” Roberts said. “Latrelle, LaVonda and Aunt Sissy have come to town for the funeral.
“Brother Boy is locked up in a mental institution because he wears women’s clothing, sings country songs and thinks he’s Tammy Wynette.
“Latrelle is self-righteous. She believes that Brother Boy should stay locked up.
“By the end of the show, though, she has kind of come to terms with her son, Ty, being gay. We see her realizing that it’s OK to accept the truth about things. She’s not necessarily a bad guy, but she has a journey that she takes, kind of an awakening.
“Latrelle allows me to be comedic but also to push making her as believable as possible and to push her to make that journey. She’s definitely a three-dimensional character.”
In the second “chapter,” LaVonda and her best friend hold up a bar and force the patrons to put on makeup and women’s clothes.
In the third chapter, we see Brother Boy in a session with his psychiatrist. In the fourth chapter, all the characters meet up at Mama Peggy’s funeral.
“Brother Boy, the role that I play, is in love with Tammy Wynette,” Smith said. “He dresses like her, he sings like her, and he wants to be her. But, out of all the characters, he’s the most true to himself. His mother has put him in a mental institution, and he’s been there for 23 years.
“What is funny, when you see the show, is all the other people are the crazy ones. They say he’s a nut, but he’s who he is. The others are hiding things.”
Writing for the L.A. Times, F. Kathleen Foley called playwright Shores the master of Texas comedy, saying, “His colorful eccentrics are dead on, teetering on a Bowie knife’s edge between the hilarious improbable and the achingly real.”
Smith agreed. “The audience members will go, ‘Oh, there’s my aunt.’ You see people that you know in these characters. Brother Boy may not be so relatable, but all the characters have their moments when they’re very funny.”
The actors cited two reasons for doing “Sordid Lives” a third time.
One, it is likely to make some money for the not-for-profit theater company.
“A lot of times we have patrons who say, ‘Please do this show again.’ ‘Sordid Lives’ is at the top of the list of things that people want to see again,” Smith said. “Plays are a lot less expensive to produce than musicals, so if we sell out a play, we actually get to put a little money in the bank.”
Two, it’s funny and fun.
“It is one of the funniest Southern comedies,” Smith said. “It’s just hysterical.”
Roberts agreed. “The people that I work with — my castmates — are absolutely fabulous,” she said. “We are cracking up watching each other on stage.”
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