nytheatre.com review by Joan Kane
August 18, 2012
When I walked into the intimate Cherry Lane Studio Theater to see Sweet Tooth, I was immediately impressed with the set. The realistic railroad tracks and painted drop of an abandoned train station promised a high level of production values for this show. A finished, complete production was delivered to the audience.
The story is told in beautiful, poetic language with passionate characters. The premise of Sweet Tooth is that Nora and Vail are two teenagers who are about to become step-brother and step-sister when his mother marries her father. I have actually known young people in this situation and it isn't pretty. It is the summer after high school for both of them and, on instructions from the parents, the two find a quiet place to get to know each other. Each brings their own angst to the situation: At age 13 Vail found his father's dead body. We learn that his family has a history of having a "sweet tooth" for suicide. Nora has body image issues. They challenge each other in beer drinking games and argue about whether their parents will stay together. Ultimately, Vail and Nora do not really get to know each other. They merely agree to mutual co-existence. The argument about their parent's love is left unresolved and I left the theater feeling unsatisfied with the story, but loving the production.
Director Gina Rattan, an experienced director, does an excellent job using the small space and when the characters disagree they often find themselves literally on opposite sides of the tracks. Rattan coaxed some good performances from these young actors. Sam Geymin plays Vail as an edgy, emotionally damaged youth who screeches and rants at his new sister. Emily Kron, as Nora, gives us an honest performance textured with subtle emotions.
Edward T. Morris provided a set that was realistically three-dimensional train tracks downstage and an expertly drawn flat black-and-white drop upstage. Though the scenery was beautifully executed I was not sure of the exact location. Was this an abandoned train station anywhere USA?
The lighting by Ryan O'Gara created a textured afternoon into evening that allowed Vail and Nora to catch a shooting star.
The sound design by Andrew Gottlieb was useful at times, making it clear when a train was coming or rolling through but the mid-show organ music was somewhat confusing.