Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Rising Action Theatre: Sordid Lives (4 reviews)

The Rising Action Theatre opened its production of Sordid Lives on January 15, 2010.
When Peggy, a good Christian woman, hits her head on the sink and
bleeds to death after tripping over her lover's wooden legs in a motel
room, chaos erupts in Winters, Texas.
Larry Brooks directed a cast that included Terry Cuzzort, Fern Katz, Jessica Marion Welch, Betty Brody, Lacy Carter, Patricia J. Richardson, Richard Ribuffo, Larry Buzzeo, Emily Ocheltree, Geoff Ward, and Kitt Marsh.

Good Lord, the Broward/Palm Beach New Times let Erika Landau write another one; let's see if she'll actually say something about the production:
More cultish than classic, it garners big laughs from the audience by being over-the-top as opposed to well-written or, at times, well-acted.
OK, that's better than last time. "Well-acted" is specific to the production.
The play deals with the aftermath of the mother's death, vacillating between boring hillbilly chatter and charming, hilarious performances. An obvious highlight includes Bill Dobbins' rendition of Earl "Brother Boy" Ingram, Peggy's gay son, who has been undergoing "dehomosexualization" for the past 20 years with a therapist who has her own motivations...
Yeah, we'll call this an improvement, although a small one. How did the show's director use the cast and the design elements to tell the story? Did the performers achieve the "charming, hilarious performances" because of the director, or in spite of him? Were the performances what made the show work, or was it clever writing showing through actors merely delivering the lines? There's still a lot more to be told.

Mary Damiano reviewed for the South Florida Gay News:
The scenic design by Jonathan Jones is inventive and spot on in the first half of the play, especially in the bar scene, which is so realistic you can almost smell the beer. Michael O’Quinn’s costume design is also terrific, from the suit and leopard accessories of predatory Dr. Eve to the lingerie-inspired ensemble of the local honky-tonk ex-con troubadour.
Fern Katz delivers the best performance as Sissy, Peggy’s sister. With her crooked beehive and oversized glasses, she could easily devolve into a sight gag, but Katz keeps her funny and interesting. Lacy Carter delivers a sassy performance as wild child Lavonda; she could be “Golden Girls” Blanche Devereaux’s younger, white-trash sister. Emily Ocheltree makes a great drunk as barfly Juanita.
The men don’t fare as well, with the notable exception of Richard Ribuffo as bartender Wardell.
Although there are many weak links in the cast, the biggest problem in this production of Sordid Lives is the plodding direction by Larry Brooks. Under Brooks’ direction, Chopin’s “Minute Waltz” would take an hour. Shores’ dialogue has the ability to crackle, but without the timing or brisk pace a director can provide, it falls flat.
Christine Dolen reviewed for the Miami Herald:
Already playing to packed houses during its opening weekend at Rising Action Theatre, Sordid Lives is, at least as far as its intended audience is concerned, something of a critic-proof show. Like the folks who return time and again to The Rocky Horror Show, fans of Sordid know the drill...
Truth be told, Sordid Lives isn't a good or well-written comedy, and Rising Action's production displays the roller-coaster quality so common to this company. Director Larry Brooks is working with both novice and experienced actors, community theater-level thespians and pros, so it's no surprise that some scenes sizzle like Fourth of July fireworks while others fizzle like duds.
Sordid Lives mixes campiness with affection for its Texas-tawdry characters, but clever it's not -- not that that matters much to a laughing audience.
The Sun Sentinel sent their fashion editor:
The problem with cult theater is that the adoration is so rapturous, its peculiar brand of fans almost don't need anything as delicate and ephemeral as a theatrical moment.
After all, the cultists know each beat and every nuance. They vacillate between mouthing the lines along with the actor and almost squealing with delight when one of their favorite parts arises.
The Rising Action staging gets points for a honky-tonk set that is picture perfect, but little else. Do they know these people at all? Shores' sly black comedy about white trash deep in Aqua Net country — that's Texas for the uninitiated — is flattened by buzz-kill timing and monotone acting.
Sordid Lives plays at Rising Action Theatre through February 21, 2010.

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