Saturday, April 23, 2011

OnStage Playhouse Presents “Sordid Lives”

Pictured: Earl "Brother Boy" Ingram (Dave Hibler), Photo by Andrew Rogers of Silversunbeam Photographic: www.silversunbeamphoto.comThe great psychologist Carl Jung once said, “That which is not faced in consciousness will come to you as fate.” That concept is a good fit for the play “Sordid Lives” by Del Shores which drips with black humor and self-fulfilling irony.  A small town Texas family needs to come to grips with the passing of the family matriarch and prepare what promises to be an embarrassing funeral, considering that the matriarch died while in engaging in an illicit affair with a much younger neighbor. In addition, the family must come to terms with the demons of the family’s past. The main demon is Brother Boy (Dave Hibler) who was locked up and sent away by the family matriarch to cure him of his homosexuality. He has lingered for decades in an insane asylum to no avail, as he is as homosexual as ever. Still, the death of the family matriarch sets off a series of events that forces the family to deal with Brother Boy and what was done to him.

Hibler is poignantly funny, a gentle soul trapped in horrific circumstances and making the best of it. He likes to dress like Tammy Wynette who he claims “got me through life.” Hibler does a good job of presenting an utterly vulnerable but still joyously comical victim. At the mercy of a psychopathic psychiatrist Dr. Eve Bolinger (Michele Guisti) he asks her, “When you dehomosexualize me will I still be able to cry?” Guisti takes gusto in being evil. Desiring fame and fortune, “I want a place in psychological history,” and trying to rape Hibler, she is the ultimate villain.  She is cruel, egocentric, enjoys wielding power over her victim and is sexually ravenous.
LaVonda Dupree (Teri Brown) and Latrelle Williamson (Susan Stratton) play the two daughters of the dead matriarch and are as different as can be. Lavonda is sexy and easy-going and Latrelle is uptight, homophobic, and has problems with honesty. They represent the two sides of the paradoxical matriarch: the side that could put away her son for homosexuality, and the side that could have an affair with a much younger man. Brown is sultry, lively and full of “piss and vinegar” as Lavonda and Stratton is wound up very, very tight as the self-deceiving Latrelle. She does a good job of portraying a high-strung Southern conservative without slipping into caricature.  Their lovable aunt, Dee Kelley (Sissy Hickey), is the peacemaker in the family as well as the comforter to her scorned neighbor Noleta.  Hickey hilariously attempts to balance the family dynamics while fighting her own cigarette addiction.

G.W. Nethercott played by James P. Tarbert is hilarious as the younger man with two wooden legs who mourns the passing of his beloved. His pathos is palpable and his love makes him unapologetic. Ty Williamson (Michael Fuller) is Latrelle’s son who is struggling with his own homosexuality. Fuller plays Ty with soothing naturalness and gentle sensitivity as he tries to come out within uproar of the family tragedy and the return of the hidden uncle. Noleta Nethercott (Holly Stephenson) is G.W.’s  wronged wife. Stephenson is very good at portraying humor and pain, and the audience feels for her. Wardell Owens (Frank F. Remiatte) and Odell Owens (Rob Conway) do a fine job of portraying the ‘good ol’ boys’ who need to come to terms with their past homophobia. Juanita Bartlett (Yvonne Silva) is perfect as the friend and bystander at the bar who watches the most amazing carryings on calm and unruffled, smoking and carrying on like nothing much is happening.  Also playing is Raylene J. Wall as Bitsy Mae, whose lusty music adds the perfect backdrop to these ‘sordid lives.”

The play runs with a non-stop manic energy that serves it well. Thoroughly enjoyable, it’s a job well-done by director Thomas Caverly.  Sordid Lives is playing at Onstage Playhouse until May 7. For more information go to


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