All in the family

Sordid Lives

Stand by your man, even if he’s in sequins.

Stand by your man, even if he’s in sequins.

Photo By david jayne

Rated 4.0

When times are tough, it helps to stick close to your family. This is the motto that Lambda Players hopes will help them sail even as a struggling economy tries to sink the performing arts.

And if any family can stick together, it’s surely the rambunctious crew of Del Shore’s Southern-fried comedy Sordid Lives. The love-’em-to-death (quite literally, sometimes) crew of this small town is the sort of family that puts the “fun” in “dysfunctional.”

The Ingram clan starts with the recently deceased Peggy, who cracked her head on seedy motel porcelain after tripping over her married lover’s artificial legs. There’s her uptight daughter, Latrelle (Bonnie Antonini), determined to ignore the nose on her face; and her loose as a goose sister, LaVonda (Kassie Rivera). Add in their Tammy Wynette-obsessed drag queen brother, Earl “Brother Boy” (Sonny Sorells), and Latrelle’s bursting-from-the-closet gay son, Ty (Steve Thompson), and it’s a wilder family reunion than the time the potato salad went bad.

This revival of one of the Lambda Players’ most successful shows features a handful of returning actors: Thompson as Ty; Kurt Kurtis as G.W. Nethercott, the married, legless lover of Peggy; and Bethany Hidden as songstress and all-around fallen woman Bitsy Mae Hardin (her chewing-gum schtick is not to be missed).

But the new additions—most notably Antonini’s tight-as-a-piano-string Latrelle; Anne Marie Patterson’s barely contained Dr. Eve; and Diva Phillips’ over-the-top and totin’ a gun Noleta, who goes all Thelma and Louise with Rivera—are absolute gems. They’re supported by a properly fussy Shara Lynn Kelsey as Sissy, Mahlon Hall as the determined to redeem himself Wardell, and Sean Murray as Wardell’s dumb as a brick brother Odell.

What this production, under the direction of Matthew Burlingame, does especially well is convey Shores’ main point: This is a family that uses a shiny veneer of humor to bridge a chasm of heartbreak. No character communicates this nearly as well as Brother Boy, who embodies dignity and compassion while dressed in electric-green and hot-pink lounging pajamas and wrapped in a pink feather boa. Brother Boy doesn’t need to plead for his humanity; we see it in Sorells’ every move. Brother Boy’s interplay with the deluded, “reparative-therapy” spewing Dr. Eve is campy without descending into a full-on farce.

Expect this production to be as in-demand as last time, when Sordid Lives’ extended run at Lambda Players rivaled its New York opening. This look into a family that knows how to forgive offers more than just a few laughs—expect a whole boatload.

And, as if Sordid Lives weren’t enough of a task, Lambda Players are launching their new Readers’ Theatre at the same time, with a staged reading of a new play about the life of Harvey Milk. Patricia Loughrey’s Dear Harvey premiered last month in Southern California; Lambda Players’ production opens on May 14.

The play is taken from Milk’s own words, as well as interviews with people who knew and worked with him (including activists Cleve Jones and Anne Kronenberg, familiar from the recent film Milk). It also includes photographs taken during Milk’s life by Daniel Nicoletta.

Dear Harvey will run in repertory with Sordid Lives through the end of the month. Up next? A revival of yet another favorite, Carhops in Bondage.

Think of it as comfort theater for economic hard times.