Theater Review: SORDID LIVES (Palm Canyon Theatre in Palm Springs)

Post image for Theater Review: SORDID LIVES (Palm Canyon Theatre in Palm Springs)

by Jason Mannino on January 26, 2024

in Theater-Palm Springs (Coachella Valley)


Palm Canyon Theater has launched into 2024 with a revival of Del Shores’ uproarious and heartfelt Sordid Lives. The playwright himself introduced the show on Saturday evening, graciously acknowledging Palm Springs and recognizing the city’s integral role in the tremendous success of both the play and the movie adaptation. Since its premiere in 2000, Sordid Lives has indeed become a Palm Springs phenomenon. Originally opening in 1996 as a showcase for the late Leslie Jordan (who was a close friend of the playwright), the play debuted at Palm Canyon Theatre (PCT) in 2002 and has since enjoyed nine successful revivals. The enthusiastic sold-out reception attests that this desert community continues to cherish this theatrical gem.

Michael Hadley and Denise Strand

Sordid Lives delves into the members of a white-trash Texas family who are coping with the loss of their matriarch, Peggy. It reveals the family’s complexities as they confront the sordid events surrounding her death. Peggy was found in a seedy hotel room inadvertently killed by a mishap with the wooden legs of her adulterer G.W., a Vietnam Vet. For the daughters of Peggy, ethical questions arise: should mama be buried in an expensive mink stole and should their Tammy Wynette-impersonating sibling, Earl “Brother Boy” Ingram, be released from the state loony bin to attend the services.

Nick Edwards and David Brooks

The cult classic delves into themes of unconditional love, acceptance, authenticity and “coming out” as Peggy’s eldest, Latrelle Williams, moves from denial to acceptance of her gay son Ty.

Michelle Davis and Mary Ewing

Director Se Layne has done an exceptional job in casting this production, assembling a talented ensemble with some of the finest actors in the Coachella Valley and its surrounding areas. Her directorial prowess shines through as she skillfully elicits both uproarious humor and poignant subtleties with equal finesse.

The comedic expertise of the women in this production is on full display. Judith Chapman as Latrelle Williamson and Mary Ewing as LaVonda Dupree deliver side-splitting performances as they engage in a duel over their contrasting views on their mother’s burial and Latrelle’s approach to her gay son. Michelle Davis in the role of Sissy is a delight especially as her attempt to quit smoking goes awry in the wake of Peggy’s death. Jobeth Henry as Noletta Nethercott adds a touch of hilarity as the distraught wife of G.W., and Dani Jara Lesaca injects fun with entertaining musical interludes as Bitsy Mae Harling, a guitar-playing ex-con, and Denise Strand as Dr. Eve Bollinger is wonderfully disturbing as a therapist who has a nervous breakdown when she fails to “dehomosexualize” Brother Boy.

Dani Jara Lesaca

The male characters in the play embody a more understated presence in fine performances from Dan Graff (G.W),  David Brooks (Wardell, proprietor and bartender of Bubba’s Beer Joint), and Nick Edwards (Ordell, Wardell’s worthless story-telling brother).

Michael Sturgis and Judith Chapman

The “heart” of Sordid Lives is in great hands with Michael Sturgis as Ty, coming to terms with his sexuality in a series of monologues, and Michael Hadley’s captivating portrayal of Brother Boy. Hadley embodies the ultra-flamboyant character with both comedic flair and poignant depth. His nuanced performance adds a delightful subtlety that enhances the impact of both humor and pathos. Together, Sturgis and Hadley anchor Sordid Lives in a profoundly relevant reality, resonating with current events unfolding within the backdrop of this country.

Judith Chapman and Michael Hadley

Del Shores is one of the late 20th- and early-21st-century’s great gay playwrights. Palm Canyon Theater’s production of Sordid Lives is a testament to the fact that his creations will stand the test of time and relevancy.

Dan Graff, David Brooks, Nick Edwards

photos by Sonny Von Cleveland

Sordid Lives
Palm Canyon Theater, 538 North Palm Canyon Drive in Palm Springs
Thurs at 7; Fri at 8; Sat at 2 & 8; Sun at 2
ends on January 28, 2024
for tickets ($17-$32), visit PCT

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Morgana Corelli January 27, 2024 at 1:01 am

Hi, I’m Morgana and I play Juanita in Sordid Lives in this production. I just wanted to thank you for the wonderful review.


Leave a Comment