25 February 2013


MUNCIE, IN—Southern Baptist Sissies, written by Del Shores and directed by Robby Tompkins, continues its run at Muncie Civic Theatre’s studio space through March 2. The show left me winded. I’m trying to understand its impact on me by writing about it. Too, I grasp at some way to say thank you for the ways theater can illuminate, quicken and confound. I mean these words to convey some sense of my gratitude.

SPOILER ALERT: These ruminations assume you’ve seen the show, and make little effort to conceal plot denouement.

Wisdom from the Peanut Gallery: What to Look At from Southern Baptist Sissies

While serving as a comic foil to the angst and turmoil amongst the four leads, barflies Preston “Peanut” LeRoy and Odette Annette Barnett pepper their one-liners with telling observations about life. Cheryl Crowder’s Odette is a hoot, referring to one unfortunate incident after another, none of which she cares to discuss in any detail. She knows what she is—and what she is not. “Oh honey, I’m not a lesbian,” she tells her newfound friend and drinking partner Peanut, “I’m an alcoholic.” All through the play she’s eying men in the gay bar, struck by this and that one’s resemblance to a person she once knew. Only towards the end does she reveal the object of her search—her brother Buddy whom she kicked out of the house over his being gay. She breaks down over her betrayal of him.

As Peanut, the diminutive Bryan Hamilton has been playing the role of the aging queen for laughs. Now he grows quite serious, speaks truth to his friend: “Look around you, Odette. All these boys are Buddy. All these troubled young men. They’re all Buddy.”

Odette takes her leave. She’ll move onto another gay bar in her continued quest to to find her brother, make amends. She studies a young man standing in the shadows who resembles the Buddy she once knew and loved. It’s Andrew, feeling conflicted over his escapades at the bar tonight, caught between longing and loathing. His religion tells him one thing, his desires another. The divinity he worships hates him and his kind. Everything he wants is wrong, everything he touches doomed. Odette steps over and kisses him on the cheek. He startles, stares, silently touches his cheek long after she walks away. Can anyone truly love him as he is?

Peanut rouses him from his reverie. “What’s your name?”

“Oh, I’m not a hustler,” Andrew replies.

“That’s alright, I’m not looking to buy sex, not tonight,” Peanut says. He studies the youth, then offers a devastating self-critique. “Don’t become like me, Andrew.” Then he extends a pearl of great price: “When you go home tonight take a look in the mirror and learn to love what you see.”

Look in the mirror and learn to love what you see. Good advice for any troubled young gay man. For any of us. For you. For me. And what’s more, I don’t have to wait until I go home to look in a mirror. The play shows me my own reflection. It’s not always pretty.

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