Well bless your heart!
|Ludicrous Theatre Company presents|
Review by K.D. Hopkins
Well, bless your heart as you step into the world of iced tea, sexual intrigue, and cotton candy hair. Sordid Lives is a rip roaring comedy about life in small town Texas from Del Shores, who wrote another of my favorite Southern comedies Daddy’s Dyin’. Who’s Got the Will?. Ludicrous Theatre does an outstanding job of recreating the excesses and idiosyncrasies of life in a small Southern town. It is a treat to watch the social faux pas of the Ingram family as they prepare for the funeral of the family matriarch. She passed away suddenly while cavorting with Vietnam vet and double amputee G.W. at the local motel. It was a May December romance with Sissy as December. She lost her balance on her way to the bathroom by tripping over one of G.W.’s wooden legs and slamming her head into the sink.
I am a huge fan of the movie version and was not disappointed by this production. Director Wayne Shaw does an outstanding job of bringing the seamy side of way down south to life. Michelle McKenzie-Voight is a standout as Sissy, the sister of the deceased. McKenzie-Voight is the incarnation of the favorite aunt who is always caught in the middle. When she says “oh hu-uunn”, it is comic gold. She wears the beehive cinnamon roll hairdo beautifully. Sissy is trying to quit smoking by popping herself with a rubber band every time she feels the urge. It is a funny piece of stage business that she pulls off with perfect timing and reaction.
Kalina ‘Kitten’ McCreery plays the wronged wife Noleta. She is married to G. W. and has to not only bear the shame of his infidelity but also that the deceased was way older than she. McCreery is a sight to behold in a polka dot housecoat and hair net. Noleta is fueled on Valium and whiskey with a side of pissed off. Caitlin Jackson portrays the prim and proper Latrelle. Jackson is perfect as the Southern lady trying to keep a lid on scandal and saving face for the family. Never mind that her son is gay her brother – aptly named Brother Boy – is locked up in an asylum and channels Tammy Wynette and other country queens, and her husband may have been gay as well. Jackson has the perfect hair and carriage of how a proper Christian woman should carry herself. With a silky voice that carries very well, Jackson brings artistry to cursing a blue streak and to singing as well.
Suzanne Bracken nearly steals the show as LaVonda. Bracken carries off a character that is over the top with unabashed glee and great skill. Not everyone can pull off blazing red hair and blue eye shadow. Bracken is the quintessential bad girl who rides on the back of a motorcycle with her tramp stamp tattoo showing proudly. LaVonda is the aunt that dresses improperly for every occasion and you cannot wait to see what she pulls next. Judi Schindler plays Juanita the barfly at Bubba’s Office, the local watering hole. Schindler gets some belly laughs wearing a house smock and sneaking cheap beer when Wardell the bartender isn’t looking. Bubba’s Office is where we meet most of the male cast, including J. Lance Williams as G.W., the scarred Vietnam vet and cougar cub of the deceased. Williams embodies the town philanderer unashamed of cheating on his wife and torn up that his wooden legs killed the only woman he ever professes to love. Michael Barr is tender and funny as Wardell who beat Brother Boy and caused him to be put away for being homosexual. Trent Oldham carries off the difficult task of portraying the oaf sidekick. Oldham plays dumb while gracefully interjecting snappy quips. He also lays a mean game of Jacob’s ladder with string and does double acting duty as the Preacher at the funeral.
J. Keegan Siebken brings a touch of gravity and poignancy to his portrayal of Ty the prodigal son of Latrelle. His character spends most of the play speaking to his 27th therapist in attempt to reconcile his sexuality with an upbringing of denial –except for Aunt LaVonda. He wants to be with his family to say goodbye to Grandma but has to dig up courage and emotional reinforcement.
Rounding out the cast is Catherine Thomson as Dr. Eve, charged with the task of straightening out Brother Boy, played by Kirk Jackson. Thomson plays the role more restrained than the television series, which serves well for the “therapy” she prescribes for homosexual behavior. Jackson as Brother Boy is also a relatively restrained performance. The timing lags a bit, as if Jackson forgets his lines at one point. The pace picks up when Thomson insults his Tammy Wynette wig and Jackson really comes alive when Dr. Eve offers herself to him on her desk. It’s a creepy and funny scene because this is really considered therapy in some parts of society. Finally there’s Alison Logan as local singer and the deceased’s ‘close friend’ wink-wink Bitsy Mae Harling. Logan does a great rendition of the song “Sordid Lives” and sings a quick spiritual ditty at the funeral after outing Grandma.
Overall, I loved this play. I marvel at the authenticity of the sets and the costumes. The food on the table at Sissy’s house takes me back to Benton Louisiana. All that is missing is the cola stains on the ceiling because the bottles explode from the heat. The casseroles in Corning dishes and Tupperware are funny bits of nostalgia. The frayed couch and bright afghan are perfect with the Tiki lamp and plastic plants. The hair is lacquered artistry with colors found only at a place like Sissy’s salon the Beehive. Sordid Lives is a great comedy with broadly drawn characters and the right touch of humanity to make them just real enough.
Sordid Lives continues through August 11th at Heartland Studio, 7016 N. Glenwood (map), with performances Thursdays-Saturdays at 8pm, Sunday 2pm. Tickets are $15, and I recommend making reservations online through BrownPaperTickets.com, as last weekend was totally sold out. More information at LudicrousTheatre.com. (Running time: 2 hours, which includes an intermission)
Michelle McKenzie-Voight (Sissy), Kalina “Kitten” McCreery (Noleta), Alison Logan (Bitsy Mae Harling), J. Keegan Siebken (Ty), Caitlin Jackson (Latrelle), Suzanne M. Bracken (LaVonda), J. Lance Williams (G.W.), Michael Barr (Wardell Bubba Owens), Trent Oldham (Odell/Preacher), Judi Schindler (Juanita Bartlett), Catherine Thomson (Dr. Eve), Kirk Jackson (Earl ‘Brother Boy’ Ingram)
behind the scenes