Alchemy and LAByrinth Theater Company
(Alchemy Theatre Company Website)
(LAByrinth Theater Company Website)
(Theatre Row Website)
410 West 42nd Street
By Scott Hudson
Directed by Padraic Lillis
Jamie Dunn & Eric T. Miller
Scenic & Costume Design: Lea Umberger
Lighting Design: Sarah Sidman
Sound Design: Elizabeth Rhodes
Casting: Judy Bowman Casting
Production Stage Manager: Jessica J. Felix
James E. Cleveland/La Vie Productions
Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
June 17, 2009
Scott Hudsonís Sweet Storm is one of the most memorable and poignant plays Iíve seen this season. Itís staging at the Kirk Theatre on Theatre Row is immediate, intimate, and imaginative. Scott Hudson, whom I met at tonightís Opening Night Reception with his parents, created his first play as a tribute to his parentsí long, inspired marriage, whose own earliest love story loosely intersected with the theme of Sweet Storm. The catalyst for Mr. Hudsonís one-act play was hearing a young intern speaking with Southern twang, at a 2004 LAByrinth Summer Intensive, and the internís tone was evocative of Mr. Hudsonís childhood in his Florida family.
Jamie Dunn, as Ruthie, and Eric T. Miller, as Bo, Florida newlyweds in September 1960, are introduced in soaking wet wedding attire, having climbed a tree house, made by hand by preacher Bo, as a surprise for his bride. Ruthieís eyes are covered by her hands, as sheís carried up a tall ladder into a crafted bridal suite in an old oak tree, the same tree they had leaned on for their first kiss. A hurricane lantern (a prescient prop, on this stormy night) reveals the roughly hewn, but romantically adorned bridal bed, and Ruthie goes into panic. When sheís lifted onto a bed pan, the elephant in the room is clearly polio (1960), and the stability of the ladder, plus the strength of the impending storm, take on wrenching relevance. Throughout this one act performance, humor, pathos, and unfolding trust are woven through the restless repartee. Bo has brought a cake, gardenias, and a cooler, and his deepest desire is a romantic toast and his bride in his arms. Ruthie had planned on being on firmer ground, the shore perhaps, and she could not believe or adapt to what her eyes beheld.
In the course of their emotionally drenched dialogue, Ruthie looks to God for an explanation for her plight, as she sits on the edge of their newly constructed bed on high, and Bo prays to God, bent over a wooden crate, for Ruthie to come around. A small transistor radio scratches out weather warnings, as the approaching storm becomes a hurricane. At one point, Bo dashes back to the car to retrieve some supplies, and the audience becomes immediately aware that the ladder has crashed to the ground, once Bo steps into the oak tree bridal suite. He does not terrify Ruthie with this news, as he seems to embody spiritual trust that all will be well. As Bo, Mr. Millerís physical and psychic longing for their honeymoon closeness is discernible in his bristling muscles. He throws himself into this role with genuine sentiment and persuasive angst. As Ruthie, Ms. Dunnís weak legs dangle lifelessly from her resolute torso, and she, too, is impassioned in her unwavering effort to survive her physical burden through her new husbandís extraordinary virtues and vigor.
Lea Umbergerís set is whimsical and poetic, with bunches of gardenias everywhere. Sarah Sidmanís lighting keeps the vision opaque but glowing from within. Elizabeth Rhodesí sound adds weather enhancements and authentic old radio resonance. Padraic Lillis has directed with a spotlight on body language and tone, plus reverence for silence, resulting in an eloquent expression of interior emotions. I look forward to future Alchemy and LAByrinth productions next season.
Jamie Dunn and Eric T. Miller in "Sweet Storm"
Courtesy of Monique Carboni
Jamie Dunn in "Sweet Storm"
Courtesy of Monique Carboni
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