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Southern Baptist Sissies 

The satire here is stronger than any drama of self-discovery

Wednesday, Jun 23 2004
Del Shores' tragicomedy mixes what New Conservatory productions tend to do best (camp) with what they tend to stumble over (sentiment). Four teenage choirboys in a Southern Baptist church experiment with their changeable, fickle desires under the inattentive but feverish eye of a fire-and-brimstone preacher. Mark, who snarkily narrates, falls in love with T.J., a straight-up military son who prefers not to think of himself as gay. Andrew is a sweetly suffering closet case; Benny rejects his upbringing to become a drag queen. The show amounts to a survey of the wreckage caused by Baptist fundamentalism, with music: Church ladies and choirboys sing hymns, while Benny channels Dolly Parton and Wynonna Judd. But the liveliest characters are a pair of barflies who seem to live in the club where Benny sings. An old fag hag named Odette Annette Barnette (J.R. Orlando) makes friends with an overweight, over-the-hill queer named Peanut (Richard Ryan). "Oh, no, honey, I'm not a lesbian," Odette tells him chirpily. "I'm a alcoholic." Unfortunately, they have little to do with the main story. The Baptist-community satire is stronger here than any drama of self-discovery: Sissies, overall, preaches to the converted.


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