Theatre ReviewsTom Williams

That Sordid Little Story

Written by Andrew Hobgood, Will Cavedo and Benno Nelson

Directed by Andrew Hobgoodthat sordid little story

Music Direction by Henry Riggs

Produced by The New Colony

At the Viaduct Theatre

Well structured and expertly staged play with music a totally absorbing show

The talented folks at The New Colony, under the leadership of Andrew Hobgood, have amassed an impressive body of work over the last few years. Their latest, That Sordid Little Story, is a play-with-music that features a five piece jug band (Chris Gingrich, Thea Lux, Henry Riggs, Brandon Ruiter and Tara Sissom) playing an original score of country/bluegrass/folk tunes filled with rich harmonies, telling lyrics and the acoustical sounds of banjo, guitars,  mandolin and bass. The band, know as  ‘That Sordid Little Story,’ not only underscores the mood and covers scene changes, it becomes a character in the play. The terrific score alone is enough reason to see this show!

that sordid little story

When Billy Lomax from Georgia, circa 1963, hears the first two tracks from the jug band – That Sordid Little Story – he believes that the band has written his life story in their lyrics. He believes that the band is somehow connected to the father he has never met. Billy’s leaves home on a journey across America’s Bible Belt in the Deep South. He is in search of the band in hopes that they will be able to lead him to the whereabouts of his father.

that sordid little story

Hobgood’s production mixes American storytelling (Southern style) devices with traditions of Greek theatre to offer an enticing journey of discovery filled with terrific music, hilarious situations in a heart-wrenching tale of a boy struggling to find his past. Patriac Coakley plays Billy as a naive, not-too-bright pure innocent determined to stay positive and focused on his goal despite what his journey leads him toward.  The plotting here is clever, fresh and smart utilizing the myths of the Deep South to frame Billy’s journey.  We see Billy struggling with a cast of original characters in unique situations – no cliches here (Thank God!). We love Billy and cheer for him throughout. Coakley is in award territory with his truthful performance. This is a masterful performance by Coakley. Caitlin Chuckta and Jack McCabe  gave fine supporting work.

that sordid little story

The play has a rich and engaging set of vignettes enhanced and underscored by the terrific band lead by Henry Riggs. The show runs a tad long (with two intermissions) at 2 hours and 40 minutes, but we stay involved because we care about Billy’s genuine wholesomeness and innate nobility.  Billy is a pure honest spirit struggling to see if he can make his own life or if he is controlled by destiny. The journey is a funny and adventurous.  The scenes involving the two Spanish characters played long with too much Spanish language- it became tedious and redundant especially if you don’t know much Spanish.

that sordid little story

Once they trim off about twenty minutes and tighten some scenes (without cutting any of the music), That Sordid Little Story’ will play as a gem. The cavernous main stage of the Viaduct Theatre (now air-conditioned) is intelligently utilized by John Holt’s three-part set anchored with a large bar. New Colony is quickly becoming a fine theatre troupe deft at storytelling with a fresh voice and fine production values. That Sordid Little Story is wonderful storytelling with outstanding original bluegrass tunes. This is the discovery of the summer – don’t miss it! You’ll love the surprise ending.

Highly Recommended

Tom Williams

Jeff Recommended, tickets $25, Thursdays thru Saturdays at 7:30 pm, running time is 2 hours, 40  minutes with 2 intermissions.

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