nytheatre.com review by Judith Jarosz
June 13, 2009
From a ballet position to an operatic aria, sometimes the seemingly simplest things are really the hardest to execute well. With a simple two-character play on one unit set with no bells or whistles, things have to be top quality, or you're sunk. Luckily for us, the team for Sweet Storm knows what it is doing.
In this sweet, charming, slice of life piece, it is 1960 in Florida, and young Bo and Ruthie have just been hitched. Bo has several surprises in store for his bride on their honeymoon, not the least of which is a nuptial night in their new treehouse. Ruthie's surprise is joined by dismay as she and Bo struggle with their realizations about what married life may or may not be, and the approaching storm serves as a nice metaphor for what ensues. We learn about their friendship, courtship, beliefs, dreams, aspirations, and frustrations. Playwright Scott Hudson does a nice job of keeping us interested by capturing a more innocent time, with characters whose heartfelt struggles speak straight to the heart. I keep coming back to that word "charming," but really, when is the last time you heard people in a jaded New York audience sigh "awww" all together under their breath...and mean it! It is the subtle shifts in this script with occasional outbursts that keeps slyly propelling us forward. It is a sweet evening of theater.
It would be impossible to accomplish this without highly skilled, totally committed actors. Jamie Dunn as the feisty, emotionally conflicted, and physically challenged Ruthie, and Eric T. Miller as the God-fearing, passionate, exuberant Bo, are both exceptional in their sincere, warm, and subtly layered performances. Director Padraic Lillis guides the action with a loving hand, never letting the energy drop, even in the quiet moments. I love the set design by Lea Umberger, who is also credited with the simple effective costumes. There is a beautiful, regal, whimsy to her treehouse, with its draping boughs, that embraces the action well. The lighting design by Sarah Sidman is also very effective. I could practically smell the coming storm. Sound design by Elizabeth Rhodes finds the right fit for the time and the mood and fight choreographer Qui Nguyen ably guides the performers through the lifting needed for the physically challenging moments.
I was impressed to learn that this is Hudson's first play. I would be very interesting in seeing what other projects he has for us in the future.