Arts & Culture Editor
The word “sordid”, as defined by the dictionary, means: “(adj) filthy or dirty; wretched; morally degraded.” In association with Silencing the Hate Week, the Citamard Players presented “Sordid Lives” over the weekend, a campy comedy about a Texas family whose circumstances and recent tragedies could be seen by outsiders as “sordid”.
“Sordid Lives” was written by Del Shores, who describes the play as a “black comedy about white trash.” When the play premiered in Los Angeles in 1996, it received mixed reviews from audiences, but gained a cult following in the LGBT community, especially in the south. Shores also wrote the script as a screenplay, which was made into an independent movie in 2000. With Silencing the Hate Week happening this week, Citamard picked the perfect time to present this type of comedy.
Directed by Josh Dorsheimer and Tatiana Urusow, the play centers around eccentric family in a small Texas town who must come to terms with each other in the wake of the death of their matriarch Peggy Ingrams (Tatiana Urusow). The night she died, she was in bed with a married man with two wooden legs named G.W. Nethercott (Henry Wagner), where Peggy died after accidentally tripping over G.W.’s wooden legs while going to the bathroom. Peggy’s sister Sissy (Mariah Mamas) struggles to keep the family in line in the wake of her sister’s death, as well as quit her smoking habit. Peggy’s two daughters, the tightly-wound Latrelle (Alex DeBiasi) and the free-spirited LaVonda (Rachel Faust) bicker over how their mother should be buried; LaVonda wants Peggy to be buried wearing her favorite mink stole, while Latrelle refuses to have her mother wear a mink stole in the middle of summer. Latrelle is also in denial of her son Ty’s (Michael Stewart) homosexuality. Noleta (Nicole Weerbrouck), G.W.’s distraught wife, hatches up a “Thelma and Louise”-inspired plot with her best friend LaVonda to get revenge on G.W. and humiliate him. Meanwhile, LaVonda and Latrelle’s brother Earl “Brother Boy” (Brighid Mento), a cross-dresser who has been institutionalized for 20 years by his parents in an effort to “de-homosexualize” him, has yet to learn about his mother’s death.
“Sordid Lives” discusses the topics of sex, infidelity, bigotry, homosexuality, and public image in a conservative town. As the family prepares for Peggy’s funeral, they deal with past family demons, rumors and backlash from the town, and the stark reality about Peggy’s mental state in the months leading up to her death and that she may not have ben the good Christian woman that everyone thought she was. The play itself is divided into four chapters, and at the beginning of each chapter, Latrelle’s son Ty is shown laying on a couch talking to a psychiatrist about his childhood, career as an actor and coming to terms with his sexuality. Certain parts of the play also feature songs performed by Bitsy Mae Harling (Blessing Robinson), a friend of Peggy and a woman who spent time in prison but claims that she was framed. “Brother Boy” has sessions with the therapist at the mental institution, Dr. Eve Bollinger (Karissa Monataner), who only wants to “de-homosexualize” him so that she can get a book deal, appear on Oprah and never have to work as a psychiatrist again. However, “Sordid Lives” is also about love, family values, acceptance and coming out. In the wake of tragedy and scandal in a small Texas town, the family must also learn to love each other and accept their differences.
With a cast of outrageous yet human characters, the Citamard Players did a commendable job breathing life into these characters, whether it was Faust as the brash LaVonda, DeBiasi as the stiff yet shrill Latrelle, while Mento and Stewart are both the heart of the story, two gay men who only want love and acceptance from their family and society. Weerbrouck as Noleta did a hilarious job switching from the tearful, shamed wife to the crazed woman who humiliates her cheating husband. The entire cast nailed their thick southern drawls, with the exception of Monataner, who spoke in a seductive Eastern European accent as the maniacal Dr. Bollinger. Mamas as Sissy looked and sounded decades older thanks to the clever use of makeup and hairstyling.
In the midst of all its raunchy, campy humor and quirky characters, “Sordid Lives” is, at its heart, a story about family and finding love and acceptance in a changing world. Citamard stayed true to Shores’ script, humor and heart and presented a hilarious, touching production.
All proceeds from the play went to Lancaster PA Pride. In addition, Lancaster PA Pride will be hosting “A Sordid Affair”, a comedic sermon by Del Shores on Friday, April 25.