A fine cast struggles to sell a script about gay youth suffering in a Texas small town 

Sordid Lives
8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 4 p.m. Sunday through Nov. 6
Carpenter Square Theatre
Bricktown Hotel & Convention Center
2001 E. Reno

Give Carpenter Square Theatre's production of "Sordid Lives" by Del Shores credit for one thing: It's a chance to see Brenda Williams, Sue Ellen Reiman, Elin Bhaird, Pat Tweed and Lilli Bassett in the same play. When was the last time these five distinguished actors were in a play together?

Well, 2007, when CST previously presented this lowbrow comedy. You may have forgotten that staging, but while this harmonic convergence of talent lasts, there they are in all their glory. Whether this is an effective use of talent is another question.

Set in a sweltering July 1998, "Sordid" depicts denizens of Winters, Texas, who come from the other side of the tracks from the Westons in "August: Osage County." A fatal accident involving a pair of wooden legs during a no-tell motel tryst has brought together the Ingram family: sisters Latrelle Williamson (Bhaird) and LaVonda Dupree (Tweed), and aunt Sissy Hickey (Williams). Isn't it interesting that family crises in both "August" and "Sordid" have caused feuding families to gather? The comparison ends there, however.

The tryst in question involved G.W. Nethercott (Paul James), husband of Noleta Nethercott (Reiman), and the now-deceased Ingram sister. The remaining family member is Earl "Brother Boy" Ingram (the fine Chris Castleberry), who has been confined to a Big Spring mental institution for the past 23 years because he goes around in drag as "country queens" Tammy Wynette and Loretta Lynn.

Brother Boy is in the care of Dr. Eve Bolinger (Bassett), a therapist so cruel that it's not even funny. Through a weird program involving "masturbation therapy," all Dr. Bollinger wants to do is use patients to make her "place in psychological history" and get on "Oprah."

Each of the four scenes in "Sordid Lives" is preceded by a monologue which is a therapy session with Ty Williamson (Brandt Sterling), Latrelle's gay son, who escaped Winters and achieved relative success as a New York actor. The point of these monologues, which are completely out of character with the rest of the play, is not clear.

Ty could represent playwright Shores, who grew up in Texas. Did Shores suffer as a gay youth might in rural Texas (or Oklahoma, for that matter) like Ty has? Possibly.

Is the playwright trying to achieve some sort of catharsis through the character? Beats me.

The June flood of Stage Center forced CST to relocate temporarily to the Bricktown Hotel & Convention Center. Director Rodney Brazil, working with a crippling script, has not found a creative way to transition smoothly between the play's four scenes, called "chapters." Staged in a hotel ballroom, the play registers a mere speed bump in the theatrical season. "?Larry Laneer

photo Pat Tweed and Sue Ellen Reiman star in "Sordid Lives."

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