Despite over-the-top performances, 'Sordid Lives' is gay old time

Native Texan Del Shores has created something of a cult phenomenon with his play "Sordid Lives."

His microcosm of the world is viewed through the mayhem of Winters, Texas, where everybody knows everybody else's business and jumps "? invited or not "? right into the middle of it. If it all weren't so funny, it would surely be a tragedy.

Set designer Josh Cain moves funky stage furniture pieces around on a floor painted like a quilt of Texas car tags. Danyel Siler's costumes are spot-on, with absolutely incredible wigs.

Director Robert Matson shepherds an exceptionally talented cast, although some timing seemed slightly off opening night. The huge range of acting styles is also mildly disconcerting, with some of the cast members translating their larger-than-life characters into over-the-top performances. Once lured into this trap, an actor makes a strong initial splash, but has nowhere else to build to after 10 minutes of giving it everything he or she's got.

Brenda Williams is deadpan-hilarious, and Elin Bhaird hits every note perfectly. Sue Ellen Reiman is a hoot, first mousy and tearful, then transformed into a pistol-packin' hot mama.

Scott Venters anchors the play beautifully with his poignant soliloquies as an anguished gay son. In perhaps the trickiest of the roles, talented Chris Castleberry made the cross-dressing Earl not only lovable, but downright sane compared to his truly "certifiable" state therapist.

Obviously a real crowd-pleaser "? but not suitable for children "? it's a treat to see a comedy whose regional sense of humor hits so close to home. "?Linda McDonald

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