When it comes to populist (read: reductive) regional theater, Del Shores has cornered the gay white Texan niche. He attempted to crack the film industry with his 2000 adaptation of the play "Sordid Lives" but lacked the kind of cult following that helped to translate Tyler Perry's theatrical success to the big screen. With "Southern Baptist Sissies," Shores has bypassed an adaptation altogether and released a concert film assembled from stage performances.
The film's vignettes of gay white naïfs from the Deep South with identity crises recall the back story of many a contestant on "RuPaul's Drag Race." Outcasts of all stripes are welcome at this pity party: conflicted gays, escapist drag queens, nymphomaniac hags and seasoned barflies who have long worn out their welcome, all navigating between the sheltered world of religion and the pitiful refuge of a seedy strip club.
Post-"My Own Private Idaho," post-"The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert" and post-"Brokeback Mountain," the material is about three decades past due. Designated for a safe space containing a receptive audience, the play neither provokes nor challenges. It preaches to the choir instead of spreading the word.
Louis Malle's "Vanya on 42nd Street" and even Lars von Trier's "Dogville" and "Manderlay" proved that such stage-film projects could transcend their theatrical confines. But irrational camera work and editing render "Southern Baptist Sissies" more fitting for the theater merchandise stand than for theatrical distribution.
"Southern Baptist Sissies." No MPAA rating. Running time: 2 hours, 18 minutes. At Downtown Independent, Los Angeles.