Shores' script is funny and clever, if just a tad PC on the gender issues. But the Running With Scissors crew and their mates are in top form. You feel like they could read from the phone book and make a great night of it.
The setting is Winters, Texas, and the characters have names like Sissy, Noleta, Latrelle, La Vonda and Brother Boy. One assumes Brother Boy's sisters pinned that moniker on him during an evening in which they imbibed several too many of whatever it was they were drinking, because Brother Boy (played with a cockeyed and touching grace by Ricky Graham) is partial to gowns and wigs. There are some other cross-dressers smuggled into the cast and, as usual, they are fine -- in all senses of the word. For instance, Brian Peterson is a curvaceous La Vonda, while Flynn De Marco is a total joy as that cigarette-addicted, tipsy sweetheart Sissy.
The play is ostensibly about a great many family complications, including the tragic death of a cheatin' woman who tripped over a man's wooden legs in a cheesy motel room. We zoom around from barroom to nuthouse to funeral parlor, and just when we think the material is played out, we find ourselves laughing yet again.
Lest you get the wrong idea, there are some men's men in the deal: Rusty Tennant, Bill Dykes and Jim Jeske, for instance. But they are out-machoed by the pistol-packin' mamas. Raunchy psychotherapist Dorian Rush seems determined to terrify homosexuality out of existence.
In brief, Sordid Lives is a cabaret treat with a Western flavor (but we ain't talking Lonesome Dove here -- unless that's become street slang for the sort of transactions that are rumored to take place in the early-morning hours in the back rooms of certain Rampart Street clubs).
While on the subject of impropriety, another group of weird sisters caused a memorable one during "The Scottish Tragedy" over at The Shakespeare Festival at Tulane. Their fiendish cauldron gave off so much steam a fire alarm went off and a tape loop commanded the audience to leave the building, over and over again. As we sat there, afraid to get drenched by the sprinkler system, if not crushed by charred beams, the management entered onto the stage and asked us to vacate the premises.
We did. Came back a few moments later. Just when -- to Macbeth's amazement -- Birnam Wood approached Dunsinane.
Macbeth, directed by Aimée Michel, is done in modern dress and gives one the feeling, at times, of seeing the scenes we never get to see on CNN. Danny Bowen creates an "ordinary" Macbeth. I don't mean this as a criticism of his performance. I mean one has the feeling Macbeth, urged on by his intense, somewhat unbalanced spouse, acts horribly out of character. And that the rest of his life, he is hunted down by the consequences of this action.
The ordinariness, the naturalness, is disturbing. But when Macbeth dies, the Weird Sister reenters to claim his corpse, reminding us that there is more going on here than "scenes from a marriage." The evil principle has propelled the drama, from the wings, as it were.
At any rate, Clare Moncrief as Lady Macbeth is a desperate individual who cannot believe that there is anything wrong with the bold act of stealing the crown. Her husband's qualms are the problem. Moncrief and Bowen (who are real-life husband and wife) inject into their partnership a heavy dose of that sad, tortured underside of marriage we've become used to euphemizing with lifestyle words like "mid-life crisis."
Also commendable in this excellent cast are Gavin Mahlie, Gary Rucker, Karl Lengel, Sharon London, Sean Patterson, Lara Grice, Cassie Steck Worley and Megan Sauzer Harms. As in Richard III, I admit I was a bit confused by the anachronism at the end. Macbeth's calls for his "armor" and is given battle fatigues, then he fights unarmed against an experienced soldier who for some reason attacks him with a dagger.