Black Comedy, White Trash, Authentic Heart

By Remy Sisk

“A black comedy about white trash” is often the tagline for the 1996 play “Sordid Lives” and the 2000 film of the same name about multiple generations of a family in a small Texas town who come together for a funeral. Pandora Productions kicked off their season by opening their iteration of the show last weekend. While the company, of course, intends to embrace the humor of the story, it was important to Director Jason Cooper as well as Pandora Producing Artistic Director Michael J. Drury to not lose the heart at the core of the story.

“I wanted to find the heart of it and the humanity because – especially since it’s become sort of iconic in some subcultures – it’d be easy to go over the top and play these characters very broadly as archetypes,” Cooper explains. “It was important to me that they were real people because everyone thinks their family is crazy – and everyone’s right! Everyone’s family is a little crazy, and the family in this play is a really good example of that – they’re just like everybody.”

On including “Sordid Lives” – which, as Cooper states, has gained a sort of cult-classic status – in Pandora’s 2017-18 season, Drury contends, “It obviously fits our mission and it’s a blast of a fun show, but it also has great heart. And it really deals with family by whatever name you call it or however you define it, which is really the theme of our season.” Pandora Productions in Louisville has an impressive history of presenting shows that adhere to the company’s central mission to “entertain, engage and inspire our audience, our community and the greater human community by presenting bold, cutting-edge and unique theatrical pieces that speak to the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and questioning community.” This show fits naturally in line, as one of the primary storylines is that of a mother coming to terms with her son’s homosexuality, a relationship whose complexities Cooper didn’t fully grasp until the process began.

“I didn’t realize how important the mother-son relationship was until I began directing it,” he says. “To me, it’s the strongest relationship in the show for some reason, and it’s maybe where I am in life, it may be because of the actress playing the mother and knowing her personally, but the mother-son relationship in this show really stands out to me.”

“It is that relationship that’s the glue that holds this thing together,” Drury echoes, “because we don’t really see those two characters together until the very end. The son is dealing with his coming out issues; the mother is dealing with all kinds of issues with the family, yes, but also acknowledging and accepting that her son is gay.”

Drury emphasizes that with the current tumultuous state of the country, specifically in regards to equality, Pandora is more needed than ever before, telling these stories of struggles and triumphs within the LGBTQ community and illustrating the very humanity that makes us all equal.

“I’ve always, of course, felt Pandora is important – it’s my life’s work, it’s my passion, and I wouldn’t be passionate about it if I didn’t think it was necessary,” Drury relates. ”But it really does have a whole new importance, particularly on the Louisville landscape, especially because we’ve been around for so long, I think we’re a trusted voice for that kind of story. I’m glad we were there before, and I’m certainly, certainly glad that we’re there now.” VT

“Sordid Lives”

Continues September 21-24

The Henry Clay Theatre