Life changes with a death in the family. And when the one passing is a parent, the aftermath can often be troublesome and chaotic.
Such is the case with the latest production at Theatre West, which is putting on the outrageous comedy play “Sordid Lives” written by Del Shores. The three words that accurately describe this performance are: wacky, wild and tolerance.
“People can expect a lot of laughter, fun and an underlying story of acceptance and love with this show,” said Jerry Ahillen, Artistic Director at Pensacola Little Theatre.
“Sordid Lives” is about an everyday white-trash family named Ingram and centers on an unusual death. One of the town’s most prominent citizens, Peggy Ingram, is a good Christian woman. The family then finds out that this God-fearing woman died in a motel room with her lover. It seems she hit her head on the sink and bled to death after tripping over her lover’s wooden legs in the middle of the night.
Peggy’s daughters, Latrelle and LaVonda, along with their aunt Sissy, have the task of planning her funeral. What deters their task is that they must hide the particulars of her death because Peggy’s lover, G. W. Nethercott, is married to the vindictive and treacherous Noleta.
LaVonda is the tramp of the family, while her sister Latrelle is her polar opposite and the only good person in this family. They are, however, some of the best trailer-park trash in the South.
All the while, other situations are tangled within the story as the women have to come to grips with two separate sets of sexual orientation. Their only brother, known as Brother Boy, is currently in a mental institution and believes he is country-western star Tammy Wynette and is expected to be released just in time for the funeral. Meanwhile, Latrelle refuses to accept that her son Ty, who is a soap-opera star, is gay.
Every step the women make seems to put them deeper in manure, but their devotion and unconditional love for each other comes to the surface every time, even if things just don’t work out as planned. They learn how to cope with their mother’s death, along with other circumstances that wisp by this dysfunctional Texas family.
“The characters all have issues due to not having a sense of acceptance,” said Paxton McCaghren, Artistic Director for Theatre West. “The show deals with racism, gender identity, animal abuse, addiction, religious zealots, handicapped people, obesity, socio-economic status and death. If you can’t find something that you have a bias against, you are not being honest with yourself.”
Other situations include a man who agonizes over a pig-killing incident, a security guard who torments Brother Boy, a deranged ex-girlfriend, revenge therapy, various bar-fly’s, a chain-smoker trying to quit, and a psychiatrist who believes she can de-homosexualize Brother Boy and then appear on “Oprah.”
The cast of “Sordid Lives” delivers comic genius with honesty and meaning. Cast members include Steve Rusk, Sheryse Wilhelm, Leslee Young, Diane Queen, Jeff Glickman, Mercedes Cobbett, Michael Fletcher, Rick Burroughs, Laura Sebastian, LaVeta Fowler, Tim Chaney and Allison Winshchief.
The original stage play was first shown in 1996 in Los Angeles to rave reviews. A movie was made in 2000 starring Beau Bridges and Olivia Newton-John. “Sordid Lives: The Series” came to television in 2008 with Rue McClanahan in the lead role.
Because the movie had such a cult following, Pensacola Little Theatre staged this show back in 2006 and again in 2007 to packed houses.
“We had great response to this show and actually brought many new patrons in our theatre,” explained Ahillen.
In that PLT production in 2007, McCaghren took on the role of Brother Boy. With this show, he is reprising that role. “Del Shores created a play full of real people that makes you laugh, cry and hopefully think,” he said. “And if you see the show, you should definitely be offended at yourself, because Shores does a great job of making you confront your prejudice.”
This whole play resembles a train wreck and is hilarious in just the right places. You may find that some of the characters resemble some of your own family members, and if so, some sort of counseling is recommended. Theatre West has stuck to the original script, and it should be noted that this show is adult-oriented.
If this play has a theme, it is stop trying to change everyone’s labels to suit your own, take care of those close to you, and treasure them for who they are because life is short.
And let everyone sort out their own sordid lives.
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays, June 3-5, 10-12
WHERE: Theatre West, 9732 Sidney Road
DETAILS: 912-4087 or sanctuarytheatrewest.com