Robbie Smith, Jake Minton, Julie Zielinski, Yehuda Jai Husband, Rena Cherry Brown in A Very Sordid Wedding. Photo: Bill Brymer
A Very Sordid Wedding
By Del Shores
Directed by Jason Cooper
A review by Dr. Jason Roseberry
Entire contents are copyright © 2022 by Dr. Jason Roseberry. All rights reserved.
Pandora Productions has been telling stories for over 25 years thanks to the leadership of their Producing Artistic Director Michael Drury. Over this time, they have been one of the most consistent producers of theatrical offerings in the Louisville-area. Their shows are professional in quality, challenging in content, and, ultimately, entertaining. These offerings just happen to also fulfill the company’s mission of telling the stories of the LGBTQ+ community. A Very Sordid Wedding, written by Del Shores and directed by Jason Cooper, certainly continues this legacy.
A Very Sordid Wedding is a very funny and touching play that explores the situations, questions, and the potential outcomes of what happens when gay marriage hits closer to home in small towns where they are beginning to experience how the marriage equality ruling affected their community and their families. A Very Sordid Wedding was initially a movie (2017) that served as a sequel to the Del Shores film, Sordid Lives (2000), which was based on his play of the same name. Translation: this campy delight is part of a greater Sordid universe full of fun and interesting characters with a plethora of backstories.
Sordid Wedding is set in 2015 and explores how the Supreme Court decision recognizing gay marriage in all states affects the small town of Winter, Texas. Ty (Jake Minton) and his husband Kyle (Yehuda Jai Husband) are activists with the goal of getting married in every state in order to raise awareness. Sordid Wedding is a front row seat for how this personal connection to the ruling affects Ty’s family – particularly Ty’s mother Latrelle (Susan McNeese Lynch), Ty’s aunt LaVonda (Julie Zielinski), Ty’s uncle Brother Boy (Robbie Smith) their aunt Sissy (Rena Cherry Brown), her neighbor Noleta (Jessica Tanselle), her husband G.W. (Craig Nolan Highley), and LaVonda’s longtime love Wardell (Sean Childress).
Not only that, but Sissy has become obsessed with learning the Bible for herself, Latrelle is learning to fully accept her gay son and Noleta has become prone to quickies in the hospital with Hardy (Wes Yunker) – an oil rigger new to town – while visiting Hortense (Barb O’Daniel Munger). Furthermore, Brother Boy is attempting to get to the Rose Room in Dallas to redeem his country queen drag. The hot new preacher (John Aurelius) is planning an anti-equality rally with Mrs. Barnes (Karole Spangler), Vera (Morgan M. Younge), and Marty (Kate Holland Ballowe). To top it all off, a serial killer, Billy Joe Dobson (Lee Stein), is on the loose.
I still haven’t mentioned Ty’s father Wilson (Sam Garas), his new wife (April Rea), the hairdresser turned activist (Robert Kingery), and the disgruntled grocery store employee (Jessica Sharpenstein). These 20 talented actors aptly cover dozens of roles, and, with Jason Cooper’s solid direction, effectively tell this story for a night of theatre that is funny, touching, and, ultimately, inspiring.
While Sordid Wedding is absolutely an ensemble piece – and what an ensemble it is – there were some individual standout performances of note. Robbie Smith is given a gem of a role with Brother Boy, and he owns it with a performance that certainly pays tribute to Leslie Jordan from the movie, but which he ultimately makes entirely his own. Rena Cherry Brown’s Sissy is everything we need her to be as the unexpected voice of reason, and Brown absolutely hits the mark with a balance of eccentric camp and authenticity. Susan McNeese Lynch deserves kudos for holding down the fort as the consistent heart and soul of the story. Finally, Jessica Tanselle nearly steals every scene she is in with her understated, but effective portrayal of the struggling, but loveable Noleta.
The Henry Clay Theatre is one of my favorite spaces to see a show in our area, and the technical elements were handled with their usual aplomb. The lighting (Jesse AlFord), sound (Laura Ellis), props (Chad Ballard), costume (Susan Neeson Toy), stage management (Addie Reinhart) and set design (Robbie Steiner) were all highly effective. My only squabble would be with the quantity of set changes/blackouts. While the script and actors seemed ready to move at a much more accelerated pace, these frequent breaks to move furniture seemed to be working against them. While not quite a farce, I believe the show could have found an even higher level if the full stops were fewer and far between.
A Very Sordid Wedding is the show we need to see at the time we need to see it. While it likely preaches to the choir, it reminds us how far we have come, how far we have to go, and what we are actually fighting for. However, I found myself most grateful for the gift of genuine entertainment Sordid Wedding provided after a couple of years where it wasn’t possible. Cooper captured it best in his director’s note when he said, “The meaning of life is to love and be loved in return – everything else is just the chaos we bring on ourselves.” As promised, this is the theme of the show, and the feeling we take away after a very enjoyable night at the theatre.
A Very Sordid Wedding
April 29, 30, & May 12, 13, 14, 19, 20, 21 @ 7:30 pm
May 1, 15 @ 5:30 pm
May 22 @ 2:00 pm
Tickets are $22 in advance (website) and $25 at the door.
Henry Clay Theatre
604 S 3rd St,
Louisville, KY 40202
Dr. Jason Roseberry is the Artistic Director of TheatreWorks of Southern Indiana, an alumni of the Actors Theatre of Louisville Acting Apprentice program, and a past director at Silver Creek High School. Jason is also a playwright and lyricist. Some of his produced plays and musicals include: “Burke and Hare”, and “E.A. Poe, Into the Mind of Madness” both at (Edinburgh, Scotland Fringe Festival),”The Red Room” Off-Broadway, Louisville Repertory Company, (Humana Festival/Heideman Award Finalist), “The Invisible Man” (Actor’s Theatre of Louisville), “Finders Keepers” (OOB-Expanded Arts, Kitchen Sink Festival Winner), “Freshman Year” (Ball State University), and “Romeo & Rosaline” (SCHS, Indiana Thespian Festival). Jason is currently the Chief Innovation Officer for Five-Star Technology Solutions, an educational technology company.