BWW Review: SORDID LIVES Mixes Camp with a Good Dose of Heart, at the OUTwright Theatre Festival
It's not always easy to bond with a cult classic after the fact. Often the movie/play/what-have-you will be so rooted in a particular time and place that you really just had to be there. But I didn't have that problem with SORDID LIVES, Del Shores' 1996 "black comedy about white trash," in which a Texas family is forced to confront their many, many issues after the matriarch dies in an accident. I had a fabulous time, and even though I didn't know anything about the play going in, it was great fun to be surrounded by a crowd of people who'd obviously watched the movie and the ensuing series many times, probably on VHS.
For those of you also unfamiliar with it, SORDID LIVES is a campy, over-the-top play about sex and acceptance, or lack thereof, in a Southern town. The matriarch, Peggy, died as a result of hitting her head on the sink after tripping over her lover, GW's, wooden legs (both of them). Peggy's daughter LaVonda and her friend Noleta (GW's wife) go on a Thelma and Louise inspired rampage to get back at GW for cheating and Wardell for beating up LaVonda's brother, Brother Boy, 23 years earlier, because he was gay (Brother Boy is currently in a mental hospital performing as Tammy Wynette). And then there's Ty, Peggy's grandson, an actor in New York, who's in therapy (seeing his 27th therapist) in an attempt to drum up the courage to come out to his family.
Add in Sissy (Peggy's sister, who definitely picked the wrong day to quit smoking), Latrelle (Peggy's other daughter, who's in a state of denial about everything), and Juanita (a spacey alcoholic), and you can imagine how well a family event like a funeral might go over.
What I really liked about SORDID LIVES was that, despite all of the ridiculousness, it wasn't just funny. Don't get me wrong, it was very funny! But it was also moving. This cast, directed by Rusty Tennant (who also played GW), did an incredible job of making the outlandish characters human, and I felt a huge amount of empathy for every one of them, even while I was laughing at them.
I thought the whole cast was great. Standouts include LAndy Hite as Sissy -- if at any moment I stopped laughing, I could look at her and start again; Victoria Blake as Juanita -- she was funny just sitting there, being spacey; and Nikolas Hoback as Ty -- his struggle to reconcile who he is with where he'd come from provided some of the most touching moments in the show.
Overall, I had a blast at SORDID LIVES. You will too. Find more details about this play and the rest of the OUTwright Theatre Festival here.