You know how some people take a really long time to tell a fairly straightforward story? They load so much ancillary information and long-winded exposition that by the time they finally get to the point, you’ve lost interest? The New Colony’s latest effort, That Sordid Little Story, kinda feels like that.
Not one lacking in creative spirit or risk taking, this scrappy group has created an entirely unique piece of work, complete with an original folksy, rockabilly score played by a lively band of five (think “A Mighty Wind,” but more sardonic). This makeshift group, called “That Sordid Little Story,” catches the ear of a young boy from the south, Billy (Pat Coakley). Upon hearing a few tunes from the group, he is convinced their music holds the answers to burning questions about his estranged father. So, Billy goes on a winding “life discovery” quest across a 1960s rural America to see this band perform, always missing them by just a few steps.
Along the way, he meets a host of colorful characters (played with across-the-board excellence by a very fine ensemble) with wildly varying backgrounds who all share the same thing: they’re desperate people who tell little lies to get by (aka. sordid little stories). Billy, who essentially represents nativity and honesty, is shocked to discover the truth about their lies.
While Billy learns some hard life lessons along his path to self-discovery, the band’s toe-tapping tunes comment in the background. It’s a clever concept and the first act is really promising.
It’s during the second and third acts (yes, third) when things start to grow dim and repetitive. At 2 hours and 40 minutes, you feel the message has been made, and we’re just getting the same information over and over again. The staging also is awkward. Admittedly the Viaduct is a cave of a venue, so co-directors Ashley Wolf and Andrew Hobgood probably felt compelled to use all that space. But key scenes are played far, far left or right, with a giant, black void in the middle. And there seems to be little thought behind what each space represents. Why is the bar so underused, considering it’s center stage? Why is the band strangely pushed to the side — and not in the empty back center area of the venue?
Still, the heart of a really fine show is in there — they just need to cut out the fat and let it sing.
“That Sordid Little Story” plays through August 7 at the Viaduct Theatre. More information here >