By Joan Doggrell
Special to The Citizen
“It is said that funerals bring out the best and the worst in people,” said Tony Daniel, artistic director of Newnan Theatre Company. “And everyone in Winters, Texas, proves this adage to be true.”
Del Shores’ “Sordid Lives” opens Aug. 28 and runs through Sept. 7. Daniel is directing, assisted by Drew Turner.
“This is one of the most absurdly funny plays that Del Shores has ever written,” said Daniel. “He also wrote ‘Daddy’s Dyin’ (Who’s Got the Will?)’ which we performed here at NTC a few years ago.”
“The story is based on a family rallying around after the death of the matriarch, Peggy Inman, but the plot is taken to the most absurd limits possible. For example, one of the dead woman’s children is in a mental facility because he thinks he’s Tammy Wynette and dresses the part. Peggy died because she tripped over her lover’s wooden legs in a motel room, hit her head on the sink, and bled to death.”
“One of her daughters wants her to be buried in this mink stole,” added Turner. “Her other daughter takes exception to that because it’s summer and way too hot.”
“I like the way Del Shores writes,” said Daniel. “He leaves the actors room to make their own statements. There’s a lot of physical comedy, a lot of punchline humor. That’s the kind of script I enjoy working with. It leaves space for the actors to put in some of their own persona.”
“Don’t look for a deep message,” Daniel warned. “It’s just about the craziness within a family and a community.”
Daniel is bringing some folks to the forefront who have previously held minor NTC positions or been absent from the stage for some time.
“I got really lucky with our audition process,” said Daniel. “The actors figured out the idiosyncrasies of their characters very quickly. By and large, we have good people who don’t usually get a lot of face time here. I’m glad for that, because it opens up our talent pool. It shows that the same twelve or so people don’t get in every show.”
Drew Turner is one of NTC’s up-and-coming theatre talents. His title of assistant director is a first for him. Craig Pollock is appearing in his first major role, as is Jay Cooper, who played a minor role in “August: Osage County.” He now has a major part as Wardell “Bubba” Owens, who, twenty years earlier, beat up Earl “Brother Boy” Ingram when he “came out” dressed as Tammy Wynette.
“Wardell comes to terms with what he did, going through a process of forgiving himself and asking everyone else’s forgiveness,” said Cooper. “He actually has a growing moment.”
Terry Whitley is playing Noleta Nethercott, a character whose husband has been sleeping with her best friend’s mother (the woman who died by tripping over his wooden legs in the motel room).
“I’m the one who has been wronged. My heart’s been broken and I’m afraid it’s going to ruin my relationship with my best friend,” said Whitley.
Whitley was very active with NTC from 2002 until 2007, when she was either acting or directing or stage managing. However, she hasn’t exactly been absent – just invisible. “I was Bert Lyons’ stage manager for ‘Rabbit Hole,’ and my husband built the set. I worked back stage for ‘August: Osage County.’ Then I tried out for this play and got a part onstage, which I haven’t had for a few years.”
Other players include Betty Mitchell, seen most recently in “August: Osage County,” as well as Melanie Jessel and Lisa Boyd.
“Usually when you have a group that doesn’t know each other, it takes awhile for them to gel,” said Daniel. “This group hit it from the word “Go!” In the first read-through, they were cracking one another up.”
The original stage play premiered in Los Angeles on May 11, 1996, and ultimately won 14 Drama-Logue Awards. In 2000 it was made into an independent film, written and directed by Del Shores. The film was followed by the 2008 television series “Sordid Lives: The Series.”
“Come on over and have a good time,” said Daniel. “Don’t be expecting Tennessee Williams or Henrik Ibsen. Just swing by and let us make you laugh.”
Tickets are on sale now and can be purchased through the NTC website, www.newnantheatre.org, or via phone by calling 770-683-6282.
The show contains mature themes and may not be appropriate for children.
Performance times and ticket prices are as follows:
Aug. 28, 8 p.m., $10 for all
Aug. 29, 8 p.m., $10 for children, $12 for students and seniors, $15 for adults
Aug. 30, 8 p.m., $10 for children, $12 for students and seniors, $15 for adults
Aug. 31, 3 p.m. $10 for children, $12 for students and seniors, $15 for adults
Sept. 4, 8 p.m., $10 for all
Sept. 5, 8 p.m., $10 for children, $12 for students and seniors, $15 for adults
Sept. 6, 8 p.m. $10 for children, $12 for students and seniors, $15 for adults
Sept. 7, 3 p.m., $10 for children, $12 for students and seniors, $15 for adults
If you have questions regarding the content of any show, email Artistic Director Tony Daniel at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Joan Doggrell teaches English at West Georgia Technical College.