Sweet Storm

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Photo Source: Monique Carboni
Two fetching performances, by Eric T. Miller and Jamie Dunn, breathe indelible life into Scott Hudson's slim but evocative Sweet Storm. The play shows us the first moments in the married life of Bo (Miller), a young preacher and citrus grove worker, and Ruthie (Dunn), his bride, who has recently been struck by a crippling disease. (Never specifically named, the disease is apparently polio; the time is 1960.) As his honeymoon surprise, Bo has carried Ruthie—in the midst of a rainstorm—up to a newly built tree house on the outskirts of their Florida town.

Bo is overflowing with romance and love, but Ruthie is more tentative, and as the play progresses, the uncertainty and bitterness engendered by her being crippled break through, casting a potential shadow over the prospects for their life together. The weather, too, is portentous, the storm becoming a full-blown hurricane as the play closes. These darker intimations could probably be explored more fully to give the writing additional dramatic heft. Nevertheless, the production offers an engrossing 75 minutes or so, thanks to Hudson's deft way with colloquial dialogue, the acting, and the sensitive direction of Padraic Lillis. The script also bubbles with easy humor, as when Bo describes his physical state when he first realized he was in love with Ruthie or how he bought new underwear for the honeymoon.

In Bo, Miller delivers a genuinely touching portrait of a good man offering unconditional love to the woman of his dreams and unswerving in his belief in God. Dunn is equally affecting, letting us see the doubts and fears seething under Ruthie's efforts to accept her love for Bo. It takes only a few moments to realize these are characters to care about. The production also has a plus in Lea Umberger's attractive tree-house set and period-right costumes.

Program credits tell us Sweet Storm is the "first written play" by Hudson, an actor and acting coach, and it's a promising debut. For a full-bodied work, the writing could probably use somewhat more storm. But the sweetness is never overdone and highly appealing.

Presented by Alchemy Theatre Company of Manhattan and LAByrinth Theater Company at the Kirk Theatre, 410 W. 42nd St., NYC.
June 17Aug. 16. Schedule varies.
(212) 279-4200 or www.ticketcentral.com.

Casting by Judy Bowman Casting.