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A CurtainUp Review
Bo and Ruthie are two kids from a small Southern community with little money, fundamentalist religious values and dreamy expectations of what marriage should be. After some off-stage giggling Bo, a lusty aspiring preacher. stumbles through the dark, carrying his new bride, up into their "honeymoon suite in the sky" — a tree house he built just days before. Bo settles her gently on the edge of a bed supported by cinder blocks. It is pouring rain and they are soaking wet. When he manages to light a hanging lamp, Ruthie looks around, stunned. Expecting a honeymoon on the beach, she finds herself in this primitive structure without plumbing and not even a hanger for her plain white wedding dress. A quilt is wrapped around the old oak tree trunk, eventually revealing the word, "Ebenezer," carved by Bo.
As Bo darts around getting Ruthie whatever she needs, it becomes clear that she cannot walk and is completely dependent on her young husband. Did she fall from this very oak tree where they first kissed and fell in love, and where she held him tightly around the neck when she slipped off a branch? Or is she recovering from an illness? Answers unfold gradually. While Bo is perpetually moving around the small crowded set, Ruthie remains still, always on the bed, absorbed in his every action.
Jamie Dunn's tight features reflect her growing anxiety. She appears fearful and weak, amazed at Bo's efforts, but obviously dissatisfied in this crude shelter, especially as the storm outside is picking up. Both she and Miller are compelling actors who convincingly delineate their different romantic visions.
Ruth questions God, agonizing over what sins she might have committed to put her in this crippled condition, and she feels guilty for not being grateful for what she has. Bo scours the Bible for answers but it's easy to see that he lacks understanding and to understand why his affability crumbles under Ruthie's tight control.
Unpretentious honesty sums up every element of this 75-minute drama—writing, direction and performances. Effective sound and lighting heighten the drama, as does Lea Umberger's set with its buckets of gardenias and gloomy Spanish moss overhead; also her story illuminating costumes.
Sweet Storm is somewhat reminiscent of the light romance in William Inge's Bus Stop and is shaded with the playwright's dedication "to my mother and father whose love for one another has stood the tests of time." But it's left to the audience to decide if Ruthie and Bo's love will stand the test of time. We do get to see them share a moment of ecstacy, but it comes as the legendary Hurricane Donna comes pounding into their love nest and Bo, as he has many times before in their short life together, promises, " Gotchu. . . I gotchu."