SORDID LIVES the play a solid hit at NCTC extended to June 24, 2017

Thelma and Louise (Noleta played by Shannon Kase & LaVonda played by Catherine Luedtke “hold up” l-r Gary Giurbinoa as GW, Nathan Tyluki as Odell & Robin Gabrielli asWardell in Sordid Lives at NCTC

SORDID LIVES: Comedy by Del Shores. Directed by Dennis Lickteig. New Conservatory Theatre Center (NCTC), (Decker Theatre), 25 Van Ness Ave. near Market St., San Francisco, 94102. (415) 861-8972, or online at Extended thru June 24, 2017.

SORDID LIVES the play a solid hit at NCTC extended to June 24, 2017 Rating: ★★★★☆ 1/2

There is no good reason why New Conservatory Theatre Center waited 21 years before bringing the 1996 stage play that spawned the gay cult movie Sordid Lives in 2001. The play has regularly been making the rounds in community theaters and always seemed to be on the boards in Palm Springs. Although the movie added other characters the stage play includes all the salient plot lines that keep the denizens of Winters, Texas with all their foibles intact including sorrow, gossip, revenge and a healthy dollop of drag. To NCTC’s credit they have brought experienced director Dennis Lickeig to helm the show and he allows his actors leeway to partially over-act while keeping a tight rein on the production respecting author Del Shores admonition, “These people are real. Don’t play them as cartoons, please!”

The major non-speaking character is the recently deceased Peggy Ingram older sister of Sissy Hickey  mother of Latrelle, LaVonda and Earl “Brother Boy”.  It seems that she died during a night of illicit sex with G.W. Nethercott by tripping over his detached wooden legs and striking her head on the sink. It just happens that G. W. is married to Noleta, Sissy’s next-door neighbor and best friend to LaVonda who is free spirited, tolerant and game for anything. The other characters are introduced as the scenes shift from Sissy’s parlor, to a local bar, to a psychiatrist’s office in a mental institution and finally the church where they will all meet for the Peggy’s funeral service. Scenic designer Kuo-Hao Lo deserves much of the credit for his ingenuity in creating these multiple venues using a central revolving background.

The play is written  in four “chapters” with each chapter starting with 20 something year old Ty, a struggling actor literally spilling his guts to one of the unseen 27th different psychiatrist as he explains his own problems of being a Baptist and growing up gay in homophobic Texas.  He has doubts if he can pull off a manly demeanor “if” he attends his grandmother’s funeral. Before each chapter ex-con Bitsy Mae Harling (Amy Meyers) a local singer with “a reputation” who is a close friend of Peggy’s strums her guitar singing appropriate country music with an emphasis on the song “Sordid Lives” that ends with “It’s a bitch sortin’ out our sorry little sordid lives.”

In this first chapter we meet Sissy who is trying to stop smoking by using a rubber band to smack her wrists while giving sustenance (fried chicken and pie) to Noleta, Latrelle and Lavonda while getting embroiled in whether to bury Peggy with the mink stole.

Chapter Two takes place in Bubba’s Bar with GW drinking to overcome his sorrow of losing his true love Peggy while having to listen to Odell’s “Swine Weigh-In” story while performing Cat’s Cradle string tricks.  Wardell “Bubba” Owens is feeling guilty about his run in with “Brother Boy” that sent him to the mental institution 23 years ago. Before this chapter ends Laverne and Shirley (aka as Noleta and LaVonda) arrive, loaded with whiskey and guns forcing the men to get in drag before going off to rob Yate’s diner.

After the 15 minute intermission the best chapter of the evening is when we finally meet transvestite “Brother Boy” acting as his soul-mate Tammy Wynette while alcoholic Dr. Eve Bolinger tries to dehomsexualization him, complete writing her book and become famous with a turn on the Oprah Winfrey Show. Leslie Jordan made a living playing Brother Boy and Scott Cox does an equally good job in the role.  When Bubba comes in with gun swinging to take Brother Boy away the audience applauded.

Chapter four is the infamous Baptist Church burial scene where further revelations are brought forth with somewhat of a resolution.

Each actor earns their accolades for individual appearances on or off center stage and as an ensemble. Their excellent performances are enhanced by the creative staff’s costumes, props, sound, and lighting and top-notch direction by Dennis Lickteig.  Highly recommended with a running time of two hours plus the intermission.

CAST: Luke Brady (Ty Williamson); Scott Cox (Earl “Brother Boy” Ingram); Robin Gabrielli (Wardell “Bubba” Owens); Gary Giurbino (GW Nethercott); Michaela Greeley (Sissy Hickey); Shannon Kase (Noleta Nethercott); Catherine Luedtke (LaVonda Dupree); Amy Meyers (Bitsy Mae Harling); Marie O’Donnell (Latrelle Williamson); Melissa O’Keefe (Dr Eve Bolinger); Nathan Tylutki (Odell Owens/Rev Barnes);

ARTISTIC STAFF: Scenic design by Kuo-Hao Lo,  Costume Design by Wes Crain, Lighting Design by Maxx Kurzunski, Sound Design by Ryan Lee Short, Prop Design by Ting Na Wang.

Kedar K. Adour, MD   

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