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Edited and Published by Robert W. McDowell

September 22, 2022 Issue
PART 2 (September 18, 2022)

A FREE Weekly E-mail Newsletter Covering Theater, Dance, Music, and Film in the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill/Carrboro Area of North Carolina Since April 2001.


Del Shore's Sordid Lives at NRACT Is Comedy with a Message


sordid adj.: (1) Morally degraded: synonym: base,
(2) Dirty or filthy, (3) Squalid or wretched.

Recipe for a Dynamite Show:

  1. Choose a script that not only is funny but also conveys an important, touching message.
  2. Begin the opening scene with Rose Higgins on guitar and vocals.
  3. Bring the rest of the cast up to her level.
  4. Shake and serve.

An Auspicious Beginning:

Director Bonnie Webster follows those instructions to a T with the North Raleigh Arts and Creative Theatre production of Del Shores' racy comedy(-with-a-message) Sordid Lives: A Comedy in Four Chapters. The action of this 1996 play takes place in the small town of Winters, Texas; and it focuses on what has to be the world's most Dysfunctional Family -- with capital a D and a capital F -- and their circle of equally Dysfunctional Friends as they deal with the bizarre circumstances of the accidental death of their mother/sister/grandmother/friend/lover/ ..., each in their own bizarre way.

Having been ushered into this world by Rose Higgins' charismatic, crowd-pleasing rendition of the song, "Sordid Lives," we first meet Ty Williamson (Griffin James) as he speaks to his 27th therapist. Be prepared to believe that James himself actually is "a gay actor from [a small town in] Texas" -- the character is that thoroughly realized!

Next up: a scene in the home of Sissy Hickey (Gilly Conklin), where she interacts with Noletta Nethercott (Melanie Carviou), Latrelle Williamson (Olivia Ashley), and LaVonda DuPree (Elizabeth Elliot). All four of these characters are hilarious!

Ensuing Scenes:

A barroom where additional hilarity is supplied by G.W. Nethercott (Landon Henry), Wardell "Bubba" Owens (Dan Bain), Odell Owens (Sean Malone), and Juanita Bartlett (Tina Morris-Anderson). Stand by for an over-the-top invasion -- an invasion!

A mental-institution office in which Dr. Eve Bolinger (Alison Lawrence) "treats" Earl "Brother Boy" Ingram (Tim Cherry). (My use of quotation marks, bold, underscored, italicized font is the only clue you need!)

A funeral home in which Rev. Barnes (Kent Dove) conducts the service. Be prepared for some highly-charged reunions and for Bitsy Mae Harling (Rose Higgins) to finally step into the action (having wowed us with multiple musical numbers).

In this briskly paced comedy, director Bonnie Webster has coaxed quite a bit of comedy from this well-matched ensemble. At the same time, we get a clear message (to quote the 1960s cartoon character Tooter Turtle): "Be just what you is, not what you is not. Folks what do this has the happiest lot."

To this, I would add the following corollaries: "Don't just be what you are, be what you are becoming" and "Folks around you will also be the happiest lot."

The Tech:

Scenic and lighting designer Thomas Mauney's set easily morphed into each location.

Costume designer Tina Vance has clothed these characters very creatively.

Memorable Details:

The extra-long telephone cord used by Sissy.

The set's wall-paneling that practically screamed "trailer" and/or " dive bar," but still fit nicely for the other scenes.

Sissy saying that the cashier at the grocery store was her "best friend," because "she always gives me a few extra green stamps" and honors coupons even though they have expired.

The songs at the funeral home -- pay attention to all of the characters as the songs are sung.

THE FINALE and creative "curtain call."

CAUTION: Adult Language! Adult themes! (A couple seated in front of me (that had not struck me as prudish in the least) did not return for the second act.) That said, I do recommend this show. See it with your favorite laughing-partner and/or your favorite discuss-the-show-over-drinks-partner. You will be glad you did!

Olivia Ashley stars as Latrelle Williamson in NRACT's production of Sordid Lives (photo by Greg Toft)

Del Shores' SORDID LIVES: A COMEDY IN FOUR CHAPTERS (In Person at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 18, 23-25 and Sept. 20-Oct. 2), directed by Bonnie Webster, with assistant director Nancy Gardner Rich, and starring Rose Higgins as Bitsy Mae Harling, Griffin James as Ty Williamson, Gilly Conklin as Sissy Hickey, Melanie Carviou as Noleta Nethercott, Olivia Ashley as Latrelle Williamson, Elizabeth Elliot as La Vonda Dupree, Landon Henry as G.W. Nethercott, Dan Bain as Wardell "Bubba" Owens, Sean Malone as Odell Owens, Tina Morris-Anderson as Juanita Bartlett, Alison Lawrence as Dr. Eve Bolinger, Tim Cherry as Earl "Brother Boy" Ingram, and Kent Dove as Rev. Barnes (North Raleigh Arts and Creative Theatre in Raleigh). TRAILERS: 2022 SEASON: THE PRESENTER/VENUE:,,,, and DIRECTIONS: ACCESSIBILITY: COVID REQUIREMENTS: THE PLAY: and THE SCRIPT (excerpts): THE PLAYWRIGHT:,, and TICKETS: $22 ($20 students and teachers, seniors, and active-duty military personnel), plus taxes and fees. Click here to buy tickets. INFORMATION: 919-866-0228 or PLEASE DONATE TO: North Raleigh Arts and Creative Theatre.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Kurt Benrud is a graduate of Cary High School and N.C. State University, and he has taught English at both. He first became involved in local theater in 1980. He has served on the board of directors for both the Cary Players and the Cary Playwrights' Forum. He is also a volunteer reader with North Carolina Reading Service. Click here to read his reviews for Triangle Review.


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