Southern Baptist Sissies
The “sissies” in this play are four Baptist boys from Texas who are attracted to other young men and therefore face rejection from their families and damnation from the church. How they deal with this dilemma is the subject of the play, which unfolds on both comic and tragic terms.
Playwright Del Shores can’t resist lampooning fundamentalism. It’s funny at first but ultimately equivalent to shooting fish in a barrel. As contrast, there’s a delightfully irreverent long-running conversation between an inebriated pair of agnostics in a gay bar (played well by Barbara Friz and Sunny Sorrels).
But gradually, Sissies deepens into a serious play, with a dramatic, cathartic ending. Partly, the transition is made through the confessional stories told by the young men (played by Kurt Kurtis, Brian Judd, Jerry Lowe and Kevin Leonard). Each brings his character to life, and each character makes different, emblematic choices.
Sissies also draws on Baptist hymns, sung at first with a smirk but later with sincerity. It’s a good choice—the melodies are memorable, and the lyrics about forgiveness, love and salvation speak to the story on the stage. This music moves your heart; many in the audience sang along last Saturday.
There are also very provocative juxtapositions, including a dual-track scene simultaneously featuring a fiery sermon alongside two naked men embracing. But the bottom line is that director Matthew Burlingame and company have created a noteworthy little production on a shoestring budget. Yes, there are some rookies in the cast and some rough spots, but it sings. Literally and figuratively.