By Dawn Watson
No discussion of Del Shores’ “Sordid Lives” should ever be complete without a warning. So beware, those who are easily offended or faint of heart, this campy cult classic set to stage at the Southampton Cultural Center from Thursday, January 14, through Sunday, January 31, is anything but tame.
Offbeat and extremely funny, the extremely quotable four-chapter comedy about an unusually eccentric family is sure to have guests rolling in the aisles—or perhaps looking for the exit if they can’t take an off-color joke or two. Without spoiling all the fun, the “Sordid Lives” mentioned in the title belong to the denizens of a small ultra-conservative Christian town in Texas, whose worlds comically fall apart after the passing of the upstanding Ingram family matriarch, Peggy, who bleeds to death after tripping over her married lover’s prosthetic legs during a tryst at a seedy motel.
“I wanted to shake things up,” says the SCC’s Center Stage Director Michael Disher of his decision to bring the show, which prides itself on being “a black comedy about white trash,” to the East End. “It’s this wild, witty, wicked piece of theater that’s different than the tried-and-true plays you usually see. But it’s also one that I think, and hope, that our audience will love and embrace.”
The multiple award-winning comedy by Mr. Shores, who is the writer responsible for “Daddy’s Dyin’ (Who’s Got the Will?)” and several episodes of Showtime’s earth-shaking “Queer As Folk” series, is populated by a cast of memorably colorful characters. And even though there are plenty of shenanigans going on—from adultery and hypocrisy to panty parading and gender reversal—the show is ultimately about family values and acceptance.
One such unforgettable character is Earl “Brother Boy” Ingram, who has been institutionalized for 23 years because he’s a cross-dressing homosexual. He might be ostracized by his family but his moral compass still points truer than most in this “Sordid” dramatization.
During rehearsals at the Cultural Center last week, the strapping Tom Gregory cut quite a figure while getting into the mindset of Brother Boy. Sporting oversized pink hoop clip-on earrings and carrying a sparkly pink-and-black Betsey Johnson cocktail clutch, the former Southampton resident, who now splits his time between Manhattan and Los Angeles, talked about his hopes and dreams for the show, as well as the freedom he’s been experiencing as an actor in the eccentric role.
“So far, the biggest trouble I’m having with the play is finding women’s clothes in my size,” says the 5’11, 200-pound actor, who incidentally discovered that he wears a woman’s size-12 shoe. “If the audience has half as much fun as we’re having, then I’m happy.”
Rehearsing with him is Southampton resident Gerri Wilson, who plays Dr. Eve Bolinger, aka “Doctor Evil.” The sunny and spirited actress is nothing like her morally corrupt character, whose intention is to “de-homosexualize” Brother Boy so she can write a book about him and appear on “Oprah.”
“This is definitely a non-PC show,” she laughs. “But that’s what makes it so fun!”
Clad in a straw cowboy hat and pointy-toed boots, Quogue resident Frances Sherman, who plays free-spirited LaVonda DuPree, shared similar thoughts about the outrageous play.
“Doing this show is like getting permission to misbehave,” she smiles wickedly. “It’s not often you get the chance to do that.”
Misbehaving isn’t the half of it, says Mr. Disher, who is co-directing the play with Joan Lyons. Audiences who make it to the show should also expect an interactive sing-a-long, cabaret-type seating and what promises to be a lively production that will be slightly different each night from the cast, which includes: Edward Kassar, John Leonard, Deborah Marshall, Joseph Marshall, JoAnna Mincarelli, Mary Sabo, Danielle Shuman, Kristin Whiting and Scott Wilson.
“Expect to sit in the dark and watch (and join) all these characters lose their inhibitions and throw absolute caution to the wind,” says Mr. Disher. “Come with an open mind and be ready to have some fun! After all, we’ve got a real honest-to-God casket on the stage right now. Enough said.”
Del Shores’ “Sordid Lives: A Comedy in Four Chapters” will stage at the Southampton Cultural Center on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from Thursday, January 14, through Sunday, January 31. Show times are 7:30 p.m. on Thursdays, 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. on Sundays. Tickets range from $12 to $22 and can be purchased at www.scc-arts.org or by calling 287-4377. Dinner packages are also available.