White trash, dark secrets
They say everything’s bigger in Texas. And experience says if it comes from Texas, it means trouble. So what does that say about Sordid Lives, a production of the Actors Conservatory of Northern Nevada and Truckee Meadows Community College?
Well, between the 40-year-old homosexual transvestite who thinks he’s Tammy Wynette, and his mother, who dies tripping over the wooden leg of the married man she’s having an affair with, it sounds like “big trouble” to me. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
The show’s writer is Del Shores, a homosexual actor/director/writer from Texas whose father was a Southern Baptist minister. Shores wrote this show to deal with some of the issues surrounding his coming out to his family. In 2000, the play was turned into a film, which has since won a number of independent film awards.
The show is comprised of four acts, all of which are centered on Peggy Ingram and her family. When Peggy’s son Earl (here played by Brad Martin) is beaten up by the boy he has a crush on—his best friend, Bubba (Jeff Bentley)—Peggy has Earl (now called “Brother Boy") thrown in a mental hospital, where he spends most of his life.
Peggy, meanwhile, has her own problems. She’s having illicit affairs, one with a married man, G.W. Nethercott (Ben Bernardy), and several with women. That is, until that fateful night with a wooden leg in a hotel room. Her funeral brings this estranged family together for even more catastrophes and secrets revealed. The fun of Sordid Lives is that you never know where it’s going next, and when you find out, you can’t believe it.
“We wanted to end the season with a fun comedy, and nothing we found seemed right,” explains artistic director Brian Frishman. This summer, it’s curtains for the ACNN, the company developed in 2002 for youth ages 8-19. Frishman plans to move to Los Angeles.
As a final show, Sordid Lives was the obvious choice. “We had done this show in our first year at the Riverfront Theater. The word of mouth on that show was so powerful, we had standing-room-only performances,” Frishman says.
The 11-character cast created a nice opportunity for ACNN’s small ensemble to merge with TMCC’s theater department. However, because of the show’s four-act format, several of the actors don’t even see each other’s scenes until the last minute.
“There’s a lot of adult subject matter here,” says Weston Spann, the 16-year-old ACNN member who plays Latrelle, Peggy’s conservative Christian daughter, whose son is gay. “It may be different for people to see teens doing this. I was afraid it would be awkward, but the story is so good. That carries it.”
Frishman adds, “I wanted ACNN to deal with issues their friends, or even they, deal with. I wanted it to be relevant, so they’ll talk about it. Sometimes it’s tough for parents to hear some of it, but the more it’s brought out in the open, the more likely they’ll be to discuss these things.” He points out, however, that without changing the story’s basics, some unnecessarily offensive material has been cut out.
Even so, Sordid Lives is big, it’s trashy, and it’s probably going to become your favorite Texas export.