When I first walked into the McKeesport Little Theater to see Sordid Lives, I thought I was in the wrong place. Mind you, I went on press night, so there wasn’t the usual hubbub that you’d see on an opening weekend. But the set seemed so plain and desolate, I was confused for a moment. After seeing the show, I understood that it was meant to signify the kind of lives these characters are leading as well as simplify the set changes (some of which felt as long as the scenes themselves), but what it really did was set the audience up for the underlying theme of this production- minimal. And minimal is not really what you want when producing a play about white trash, death, drinking, and drama.
If you’re not familiar with the play or movie, the story follows the family of a woman who has recently died accidentally in a scandalous way involving a motel, an affair, and wooden legs. This, of course, gets the small town they live in buzzing with gossip. Sissy, aptly named sister of the deceased, tries to wrangle her family and friends during the grieving in hopes everyone can be peaceful during a time when emotions are running wild. Sissy is played by Anna Marie Colecchi, who seemed much too young for the role. She wasn’t the only questionable casting choice as far as age is concerned, but she certainly stood out the most.
Next up are the three children of the deceased. LaVonda (Elaine M. Lucas-Evans) is a law-breaking lush who could have been a more risque version of Naomi from Mama’s Family. Latrelle (Apryl L. Peroney)- is a good Christian mother who doesn’t approve whatsoever of the scandal surrounding her mama’s death and Earl, aka Brother Boy (Karl Rice) a gay transvestite who is so controversial to the family that they’ve sent him away indefinitely to a mental hospital. These three by far stole the show. They had some issues, but these actors were the ones who really made their characters genuine and humorous. Peroney’s first appearance had me in stitches over a costume mishap that lasts an entire scene. Without these three, especially Rice’s sass and comedic timing, this show would have been a lot harder to watch.
I’m not sure if the issue was in Rob Connick’s direction or just that the cast was thrown off by having their first audience, but much of the show just didn’t work. Accents came and went, lines were clearly mangled, costume pieces didn’t quite fit, and a lot of the physical comedy ended up sloppy. Alexandra Wilson (as Bitsy Mae Harling) sang songs during most set changes (which were already distracting), and while her voice was lovely, it was soft and hard to hear. And I remain confused about why the second black sheep of the family, Ty Williamson (Lukas Gerlach), was delivering his therapy monologues in the dark. It seemed like they were going for some symbolism that ended up being just another distraction that took away from potential humor and meaning.
All this being said, there were many moments I really enjoyed. Some of the over-the-top comedy worked well, and a lot of the serious messages delivered by Gerlach resonated with me. Mostly I was confused by the way the good and the bad came so concurrently and yet didn’t create a smooth flow of theatre. I’m hoping that the cast just had some first-night jitters and that they’ve worked them out by the time you’re reading this. It was a show with potential, but it felt like it needed another week of tech runs. I think anyone who’s done theatre has been in this position once or twice, so I wish the cast and crew nothing but wonderful performances through the rest of the run. The play is about death, but what this show needs is a bit more life.
Sordid Lives runs now through September 23rd at the McKeesport Little Theatre. For tickets visit https://www.showclix.com/events/20987
Ringa is a native Pittsburgher who has a Creative Writing degree from Carlow University. She’s been published multiple times online and in print, and has had several of her theatrical works produced locally. In the theatre world, she’s worked with many Pittsburgh companies in every position from director to actor to sound designer, but her favorite role is stage manager. When she’s not writing or performing, Ringa is the co-owner of a small business making handmade pop culture items and she runs her own baking and cake decorating business out of her home. In her rare free time, Ringa is usually travelling or watching horror movies at home with her cats.
Categories: Archived Reviews