If you look at it the right way, you could consider it a romantic adventure to spend your wedding night in a rural Florida tree house with a storm approaching.
But Ruthie (Kelly Iversen), a woman after my own heart, doesn’t see it that way.
She expected to spend the night in a nice Clearwater Beach hotel. Instead, she finds herself being hoisted like a sack of potatoes up a ladder on the shoulder of groom Bo (Adam Brick) and deposited on a rustic bed in their “honeymoon suite in the sky.”
This is only one of several surprises Bo will spring on his bride.
Ruthie has other problems as well. She’s young, shy and paraplegic -- the latter the result of an unspecified condition that (given the 1960 setting) may well be polio. This “sudden” marriage has given her the jitters, and Bo’s fondness for odd surprises is not helping the situation.
But the well meaning if clumsy Bo (for Boaz) Henderson, smitten with Ruthie since their high school days, isn’t concerned about these issues, nor about the big one: their apparent poor fit as a couple. Bo, son of a preacher, is himself a young minister of the “fire and brimstone” stripe, while Ruthie has lost her faith. It’s not clear why these two have married.
But now, here they are in a tree house, itself freighted with significance: Bo built it on the very spot of their first kiss two years before. Now he has filled it with Mason jars full of gardenias, the bed and a big old quilt covering the art work he proudly shows her: the word “Ebenezer” carved into a tree trunk.
“Scrooge?” she asks.
No, he assures her, this Ebenezer is the biblical term meaning “the Lord has helped me thus far.”
Playwright Scott Hudson’s first effort is more wispy tone poem than play – it’s only 70 minutes long, there really is no plot and the characters are sketchy, so it’s difficult to care about them.
I have other problems with this piece. I fail to see the dramatic possibilities in the squirm-inducing use of a bedpan in full audience view. And it’s odd that this love story features the use of the 1959 Santo & Johnny hit “Sleepwalk,” which is about the loss of a love.
Still, it has its charms as a thumbnail sketch of hapless newlyweds trying to break through the first-night awkwardness.
Actor Daren Scott makes an impressive directorial debut with this difficult piece, showing a good feel for movement and emotion. He’s helped by Tim Wallace’s rustic set and his fine sound design, with rain, train and approaching hurricane sounds.
Iversen is fine as the skeptical Ruthie, who seems unsure that she wants this relationship at all. “Maybe I shoulda taken up drinkin’ like my momma,” she notes.
Brick is endearing though annoying as the clueless Bo, who knows what he wants but not how to get it.
Many will find this piece charming, even engaging. But though “Sweet Storm” is well acted and directed, I frankly found it a bit creepy and couldn’t wait to get out of the theater.
“Sweet Storm” plays through May 15 at New Village Arts Theatre, 2787 State St. in Carlsbad.
Thursday through Saturday at 8 p.m.; matinees Saturday at 3 and Sunday at 2 p.m.
To read more reviews by SDGLN Theater Critic Jean Lowerison, click HERE.