Review: ‘Sordid Lives’

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First staged in 1996, scripter-helmer Del Shores' "Sordid Lives" follows the seedy machinations of the citizens of Winters, Texas. Though skimpy on plotline, the laffer exhibits Shores' impeccable ear for the sound and humor of his fellow Texans.

First staged in 1996, scripter-helmer Del Shores’ “Sordid Lives” follows the seedy machinations of the citizens of Winters, Texas. Though skimpy on plotline, the laffer exhibits Shores’ impeccable ear for the sound and humor of his fellow Texans.

Turned into a feature in 2001, “Sordid Lives” is performed in repertory with “Southern Baptist Sissies” as the opening salvo of a Season of Shores, a Zephyr Theater-hosted presentation of Shores’ six comedies set in small-town Texas.

The action covers the two days after the death of Peggy Ingram, a respectable Christian grandmother-turned-wanton, who died from a fall in a motel room during a tryst with legless Vietnam vet G.W. (Mitch Carter), husband of her close friend Noleta (Patrika Darbo). This event unleashes a heap of closeted skeletons as Peggy’s colorful menagerie of family and friends wallows in an often-riotous procession of feuds, resentment, remorse and reconciliation.

As a prelude to each scene, Peggy’s New York actor grandson Ty (Jason Dottley) offers a series of soft-spoken soliloquies about his repressed youth and the slow journey he has traveled to return home and tell his mother, Latrelle (Mary-Margaret Lewis), that he’s gay. Dottley’s low-key declarations are an effective contrast to the loudmouth mayhem that follows.

Shores’ characters are plots unto themselves. He has gathered a seasoned core of thesps (including nine from the 1996 production) to bring these low-rung Texans to life. Heading the list are Lewis as the thoroughly repressed Latrelle and Ann Walker as fun-loving LaVonda, Peggy’s middle-aged daughters who wage a hilarious battle over whether their mom should be buried in her favorite fur stole.

Leslie Jordan turns in the most memorable portrayal as Peggy’s son, Brother Boy, who has been institutionalized for 20 years due to his penchant for impersonating the queens of country music — Tammy Wynette, Loretta Lynn and Patsy Cline. Jordan offers a riotous study of befuddled indignation as he recoils from the determined sexual advances of his agenda-driven psychoanalyst, Dr. Eve, ravenously portrayed by Rosemary Alexander.

Acting as a besotted one-woman Greek chorus to the action is the endearing Juanita (a character not in the original production), played to the barfly hilt by Sarah Hunley.

Lending solid support are Dale Dickey as Peggy’s much put-upon sister, Sissy, whose three days without smoking have been ruined by Peggy’s inconsiderate demise; and Debi Derryberry as the well-worn Bitsy Mae, whose gentle musical offerings of “Will the Circle Be Unbroken,” “The Water Is Wide” and play’s title song punctuate the onstage doings.

Sordid Lives

Zephyr Theater; 99 seats; $45 top

Production

A Del Shores, in association with Far From Right Prods. and Linda Toliver & Gary Guidinger, presentation of a play in two acts, written and directed by Shores. Musical direction, Joe Patrick Ward.

Creative

Sets, Robert Steinberg; lighting, Kathi O'Donohue; costumes, Craig Taggart; sound, Drew Dalzell. Opened Feb. 10, 2006. Reviewed Feb. 19. Runs through April 23. Running time: 2 HOURS, 30 MIN.

Cast

Bitsy Mae Harling - Debi Derryberry Ty Williamson - Jason Dottley Sissy Hickey - Dale Dickey Noleta Nethercott - Patrika Darbo Latrelle Williamson - Mary-Margaret Lewis LaVonda Dupree - Ann Walker G.W. Nethercott - Mitch Carter Wardell "Bubba" Owens - Newell Alexander Odell Owens, Rev. Barnes - Earl Bullock Juanita Bartlett - Sarah Hunley Dr. Eve Bolinger - Rosemary Alexander Earl "Brother Boy" Ingram - Leslie Jordan
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