Island ETC plays Del Shores’s classic comedy for laughs and lessons
by Donalevan Maines
Kevin Daugherty’s back-to-back gay roles are miles apart, both literally (as the crow flies) and figuratively (how he approached each part).
Through June 18, Daugherty is Earl “Brother Boy” Ingram, a Tammy Wynette impersonator at “the state mental institution,” in Del Shores’s Sordid Lives at Island ETC in Galveston.
It takes Daugherty more than two hours to beat a face, which is about what it took him to drive to his gay role in April, as Alan Turing in Breaking the Code at Theater Southwest in Houston.
Helming Sordid Lives is out actor/director Fred White, who knows something about cross-dressing. At Deer Park’s Art Park Players, White has done high drag in Sugar (the musical version of Some Like It Hot) and played both male and female characters in Greater Tuna.
The main character in Sordid Lives is Ty, a twenty-something gay actor who’s played at Island ETC by Travis Coombs. (Earlier this season, he appeared as Chip in Art Park Players’ 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, singing the lament, “My Unfortunate Erection.”)
“None of the cast is gay,” says White. “Not that we know of.”
“Coming out” in Sordid’s judgmental small Texas town is a struggle for Ty. He knows how “Brother Boy” got beaten up and sent to the funny farm after he confessed his love for another guy.
Sordid Lives is billed as “a black comedy about white trash.”
White hopes that audiences are laughing with the characters, not at them. “These type of people really, really exist, still,” says White, who grew up outside of Henderson, 45 miles north of Nacogdoches.
The minute he graduated from high school, White fled to Houston—to get into theater, not to come out. He married a woman and they had two children.
“I didn’t start dealing with being gay until I was 30,” says White, who is now 57.
In Sordid Lives, Daugherty’s character has spent 23 years at the funny farm, finding solace in drag. “Brother Boy” says, “The only thing that’s kept me sane is my career. My country queens,” referring to idols Kitty Wells, Loretta Lynn and Tammy Wynette.
“Brother Boy” wants to flee the cuckoo’s nest so he can show up in high drag at the funeral of his mother, who has hit her head on the sink and bled to death after tripping over her lover’s wooden legs in a hotel room.
Ty also weighs whether to return home for the family matriarch’s funeral, which turns out to be cathartic for one character after another, as they shout into the coffin what’s been eating at them for years.
“It’s really very funny,” says Daugherty. “The characters are such stereotypes, but at the end of the show, the stereotypes are broken.”
White says, “We portray them as truth. If we didn’t, I don’t think it would be funny.”
Donalevan Maines is a regular contributor to OutSmart magazine.