THEATER REVIEW: Del Shores' “Sordid Lives” is wickedly funny at OnStage

I may be divulging more than I should, but I think I know some of the Southern Baptist rednecks in Del Shores’ rollicking “Sordid Lives.”

Sisters Latrelle Williamson (Susan Stratton) and LaVonda Dupree (Teri Brown), daughters of Grandma Peggy, are preparing for her funeral and arguing about that mink stole Latrelle wants mama to wear. You know, the one with the head still on it. LaVonda argues that it’s just too darned hot for anybody to wear fur, even a corpse.

But the fur fight is just a cover-up for the real embarrassment: Peggy died in a seedy motel room in a tacky way and in, well, lascivious circumstances. And in Winters, Texas (population 2880), there’s little chance to keep that a secret.

And that’s not the half the sordidness going on in this little burg. Consider poor Latrelle, about as uptight as they come, and her problem: her son Ty (Michael Fuller) is gay, a word she can’t even bear to utter.

Ty has escaped to New York and gone through 27 therapists in three years, but given that he’s from Texas, a Southern Baptist, an actor and (the unutterable word), chances are he’ll need more if he’s going to get “straightened out.” Will he put all the family ’tude aside and go home for the funeral?

Then there’s Sissy Hickey (Dee Kelley), whose living room wall sports side-by-side portraits of Elvis and Jesus, and who spends much of the play thwanging her wrist with a rubber band in an unsuccessful effort to quit smoking.

Hanging out down at the bar are Wardell “Bubba”Owens (Frank Remiatte), brother Odell (Rob Conway) and G.W. Nethercott (James P. Tarbert), perpetrator of the affair that has indirectly killed Peggy.

And down at the mental hospital, you’ll find Peggy’s son, gay transvestite Earl “Brother Boy” Ingram, institutionalized for the past 23 years for “dehomosexualization” – and his exasperated therapist, Dr. Eve Bolinger (Michele Guisti), whose hopes to get a book deal and an “Oprah” appearance out of this are fading fast.

Shores serves up these goofy characters with a healthy dose of humor, even tossing in a sweet little ending. Director Thomas McCaverly keeps everything from getting too far out there, and a good time is had by all.

Don’t expect subtlety here, or profound character development. These folks are who they are, and the sooner they learn the truth of this sentiment (sung wonderfully, along with many others, by Raylene J. Wall), the better:

Now who's to judge who's a saint and who's a sinner
Lord, it's tough enough to trudge from brunch to dinner

Now we struggled comin' down the chute to take our first breath
and we struggle for acceptance from birth to death
But the Lord's too busy tryin' to keep the world on its feet
He ain't got time to give a damn about what goes on between the sheets.

Oh, maybe I don’t really know these folks. Maybe Shores and this splendid cast just made me think I do. And that’s just as good.

The details

“Sordid Lives” plays through May 7 at OnStage Playhouse, 291 Third Ave. in Chula Vista.

Thursday through Saturday at 8 p.m.; matinee Sunday at 2 p.m.

For tickets, call (619) 422-7787 or visit HERE.

To read more reviews by SDGLN Theater Critic Jean Lowerison, click HERE.