Sometimes one can be charmed by what seems to be the slightest of scripts. A smile comes to your face and stays there for the whole of the play. You find yourself transfixed by an idea so odd and fresh, you are not completely aware of what is lurking underneath. It is on the ride home from the theater when the processing and revelations take place.
Such is the case with The Theater Company of Hubbard Hall’s current production of Scott Hudson’s “Sweet Storm” running through Feb. 7. Running a scant 70 minutes, “Sweet Storm” is a one-act comic charmer with an absurd premise, gentle restraint, winning cast and a deceptively simple little theme.
Set in 1960’s Florida during an approaching ominous summer storm, the play follows newlyweds Ruthie and Bo. In their arboreal honeymoon suite in the sky, a tree house that Bo has built as a romantic gesture to his bride, they start to explore the future from the view above. Ruthie’s initial excitement and surprise turns to doubt and fear and the two see that their ideas of happiness and marriage may not be in synch.
The future will bring many unforeseen dramas and frightening situations. How will they prepare? As the storm grows closer, Bo and Ruthie struggle to brace themselves against forces both inside and outside while presenting a story which challenges our perception of trust, faith and love.
In a delicate play like this one, careful watch must be applied not to force, cajole, trick, dazzle or manipulate the audience into a feeling or an emotion. It just needs to breathe and be. Under the watchful eye of director Dina Janis, cast members Remy Bennett and Monroe Robertson manage to not only get the emotional honesty each of their character’s require, but are able to maintain that honesty for the duration of the evening, a feat not easy in a fable so fanciful and one that borders so close to fantasy.
Robertson as Bo, the enlivened parson, finds all the earnest and eagerness that young faith can embody. Robertson’s small awkward actions as a man of the cloth experiencing the land of the lustful and the fervent wish to redeem the emotionally crippled is engaging and appealing.
As the sensitive and melodramatic young bride Ruthie, Bennett succeeds in revealing a wounded girl who has lost her faith as she struggles with the notion of trust and opening up to its power to heal. Bennett’s performance is chock full of nuance and offers clues of what the future holds for both Ruthie and her spouse.
With a simple setting full of tree branches, gardenias and glimpses of hope, the evening succeeds in both charming us and puzzling us all at once, leaving us wondering if what we have witnessed is the start of something good or a vision that will be washed away by the impending deluge. Sweet Storm is a parable which will leave you refreshed as the air on a hot summer’s night after a cloudburst of rain.