Richard Riccardi

As I See It

Sublimely Ridiculous “Sugar Bean Sisters”

Submitted by Sandy Riccardi

Spreckels Theatre Company’s “The Sugar Bean Sisters” is a non-stop, hilarious and touching romp through the sugarcane fields of Florida straight into a house belonging to a crazy pair of sisters with a history of mystery. The two aging Nettles sisters impatiently await their future and are surprised by a feather-covered guest from New Orleans who sets off a chain of events and memories.

The Sugar Bean Sisters

Photograph by Eric Chazankin

The Sugar Bean Sisters

Photograph by Eric Chazankin

 

Director Denise Elia-Yen brings the script by Nathan Sanders to life with clever directing and fine actors. Mollie Boice plays Willie Mae, the eldest Nettles sister, a devout Mormon waiting for a handsome husband, or Heaven, whichever comes first. Boice plays the part with a great deal of love and sweet sensitivity, alternating with piety and vanity and angry meltdowns at her sister. Mary Gannon Graham plays the sister Faye, a rather bad Mormon, much earthier than than the prim Willie Mae. Extremely earthy. Hilariously earthy. Faye longs not for Heaven, but for the aliens to return to the family cane field that she swears they visited 20 years ago. She has a bag packed and plans to go with them. Graham’s North Florida accent is outstanding (this writer is from there). She is very believable in her childlike hopes and her love/hate relationship with her stodgy, needy sister. Lydia Revelos has terrific energy as the very colorful Vidella Sparks, a stranger (dressed in plumage and a corset—Costume designer Pamela Johnson had a VERY good time with her) who read about Faye’s expectations that the aliens would return that night, and shows up at their door with amusing results.

The Sugar Bean Sisters

Photograph by Eric Chazankin

The Sugar Bean Sisters

Photograph by Eric Chazankin

 

Larry Williams plays the handsome Bishop Crumley, also doubling as a AAA roadside assistance angel. The only man in the play, he is also really the only straight-man in the show, solidly bringing needed contrast to the ridiculousness of the sisters and their visitor. And Sharon Griffith plays the magical, mysterious “Reptile Woman”, sort of the exorcist of the house. She doesn’t get much floor time, but what she does is deliciously memorable.

The set designers, Elizabeth Bazzano and Eddie Hanson, worked with projection designer Patrick Taber to make a delightful space for the story to unfold in, with amusing knick knacks hanging on the wall, clearly for half-a-century, and baffling tricks of objects moving on their own. Jessica Johnson, sound designer, keeps us in suspense with celestial sound.

 

The Sugar Bean Sisters at Spreckels is a wonderful way to escape the troubles today and laugh non-stop.

 

March 17-April 9 at Spreckels Theatre Company

8PM Fridays and Saturdays; 2PM Sundays; and 7:30PM Thursday, April 6

For tickets, call the Spreckels Box Office at 707-588-3400, or www.spreckelsonline.com

 

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