Del Shores has again mined his roots in his fourth comedy of smalltown Texas life. This latest work is skimpy on plot, but like “Daddy’s Dyin’, Who’s Got the Will?”– his local stage hit and subsequent film of a decade ago –“Sordid Lives” exhibits Shores’ impeccable ear for the sound and inherent humor of his home folk.
The play covers the chaotic two days following the death of Peggy Ingram, a respectable Christian grandmother who died from a fall in a seedy motel room during a rendezvous with legless Vietnam War vet G.W. (Mitch Carter), the husband of one of her best friends, Noleta (Patrika Darbo).
This event lets out the closeted skeletons as Shores’ unique menagerie of family and friends wallows in an often riotous assortment of feuds, resentments, remorses and reconciliations.
As a prelude to each scene, Peggy’s New York actor grandson Ty (Kirk Geiger) offers a series of soft-spoken soliloquies about his repressed youth and the slow emotional journey he has traveled to finally be able to return home to Texas and declare openly that he is gay. Geiger’s low-keyed approach to Ty is an effective contrast to the action that follows.
Shores’ characters are plots unto themselves and the playwright, who also helmed the piece, has gathered a seasoned core of actors from his former plays to bring these Texans to life.
Heading the list are Mary-Margaret Lewis as the thoroughly repressed Latrelle and Ann Walker as fun-loving LaVonda, Peggy’s middle-aged daughters who wage a hilarious two-day battle over whether their momma should be buried in her favorite fur stole.
Newell Alexander and Earl Bullock are perfect as good-ol’-boy brothers Wardell and Odell, whose lives don’t extend far beyond Wardell’s bar.
The most poignant portrayal is turned in by Leslie Jordan as Peggy’s son, Brother Boy, who has been institutionalized for 20 years because of his devotion to impersonating the queens of country music — Tammy Wynette, Loretta Lynn and Patsy Cline.
Jordan is a marvelous study of befuddled indignation as he recoils from the determined sexual advances of his psychoanalyst, Dr. Eve (in a ravenous portrayal by Rosemary Alexander).
Also lending solid support are Beth Grant as Peggy’s sister, Sissy, whose three days of cigarette abstinence have been ruined by Peggy’s inconsiderate demise; and Margot Rose as the well-worn Betsy Mae, whose gentle musical offerings of such ballads as “Will the Circle Be Unbroken,””The Water Is Wide” and an original title song punctuate the onstage doings.