Saturday, August 01, 2009

Sweet Storm

"Sweet Storm" presented by LABrinth Theater Company at the Kirk Theatre in Theatre Row, August 1, 2009

On an early September night in 1960 in Lithia Springs, Florida, Bo (Eric T. Miller) brings his new bride Ruthie (Jamie Dunn) to the tree house he's built for their wedding night and filled with gardenias. He's as sweet, simple and thoughtful as he can possibly be. Eager to please to a fault, this young preacher only wants to start his new life with the love of his life. This new play by Scott Hudson is his first effort and shows promise.

Ruthie brings more baggage than just her suitcase to the proceedings. Inexplicably paraplegic, she's more than fearful of what her future will hold. Bo's tree house is only the first of several romantic surprises, but her fears prohibit her from appreciating them, and him.

As Ruthie, Ms. Dunn has moments of truth, but those are only scattered through her performance. I really wanted to like her character more, but her and her character's choices prevented that, more often than not. Much of the time, it was unclear why Bo was so drawn to her and often seemed that he didn't really know all that much about her despite having been seeing each other for over a year.

Mr. Miller's Bo, so painfully earnest, good-hearted and good-looking, carries the evening, just as he (literally and figuratively) carries Ms. Dunn. His Bo is much like the Bo from "Bus Stop" but with much more depth of feeling and thoughtfulness. The tree house is built in the tree that he and Ruthie had climbed together a year before, on the spot in that tree where they shared their first kiss.

Director Padraic Lillis manages well with the slightly clunky script, keeping things moving and somehow managing to work through not one, but two, moments with Ruthie on a bedpan. Mr. Hudson works in some interesting points about maintaining faith in a crisis as Bo tries to help Ruthie come to terms with her disability. Lea Umberger's platform set is a nice mix of textures of real and faux.

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