SWEET REVENGEWritten by Julie Zaffarano
Directed by Sara Jones
Stage Manager- Rachel Webber
Set Designer- Michael Straub
Costume Designer- Alison Kingwell
Lighting Designer- Catherine M. Luster
Sound Designer- Robbi D. Holman
Properties Designer- Jessi Morris
Light and Sound Board Operator- Kenneth Hall
Program- Carol M. Rice
Box Office- Kim Wickware
Show Logo- Geof Dall
Joni- Janie Breor
Sunny- Suzie Dotson
Brian- David Colville
Charlie Charles- Karina Barrett
Maurice Bailee- Scott Hickman
Officer Andy- Russell Sims
Reviewed Performance: 3/19/2022
Reviewed by Brendon Ramsey, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
First impressions are everything. This rings true for all things in life, but especially in theatre. When I first entered the theater and got a look at the set for Sweet Revenge (designed by Michael Straub), my immediate thought was “Oh, wow. This is perfect.” The first act of the show revolves entirely around a bakery mid-renovation, and I was immediately thrilled by the incomplete and very much work-in-progress vibe of the play space. While it left me wondering how they would pull off a more completed look, I was more excited than concerned. It set the stage perfectly for the show in store, and I can firmly say this critic was not disappointed. When the lights finally went up on this show, that excitement only continued. Act 2 delivered the “finished product” of their remodeling, and they pulled it off very well. Everything about that little bakery felt real, and I cannot give enough credit to Michael Straub for creating such a simplistic yet wonderful set.
Throughout the entire show, the chemistry between the actors absolutely shines. Each and every relationship feels natural and fleshed out, and thankfully nothing feels forced in any way. The standout dynamic, for me, was by far the relationship between Joni (Janie Breor) and her sister Sunny (Suzie Dotson). For anyone with siblings, you know there is bound to be some tension sprinkled into the sweet stuff. Siblings fight. They disagree. And in my time seeing shows on stage, I have not experienced a more authentic sibling dynamic than between these two lovely women. And it must be said, the relationship they both have with David Colville’s Brian is also fantastic. While there are really no “small” roles in the show, these three carry the majority of the weight and they do so with grace and vigor. Colville’s Brian was a stand-out among the three, though, simply for his ability to work with anything that was thrown at him. While the script was largely enjoyable, I do believe there would have been some jokes that would not have landed if it weren’t for Colville’s delivery. There was also an issue with a couple of fumbled lines at the top of the show, and Colville covered them as best he could with quick rebuttals. It almost made those couple of interactions seem like they were supposed to be jumbled and a bit messy; a result of the arduous work being undertaken by the three pseudo leads.
Where the show really finds its charm, however, is in the character of Charlie Charles. Charlie (played brilliantly by Karina Barrett) by far has the most to work within this show. Her lines have more comedic weight, and her arc throughout the show has a bit more depth than even the three centerpiece characters. I was impressed by the constant energy Karina Barrett brought to Charlie, and she genuinely had me laughing more than any other character. Barrett’s character work really gets to shine in Act 2, though, when things get a little more… Chaotic. Furthermore, she gets to bounce off of her “boss,” Scott Hickman’s Maurice Bailee, who delivers his asinine role to absolute perfection. My hatred of Maurice ran deep throughout the show, and all of that is owed to Hickman’s excellent performance. He truly was the perfect complement to the loveable Charlie.
The rest of the pieces of this show fall into place perfectly, with once again a simple but perfect costume design out of Alison Kingwell. While there wasn’t a lot of room to show off anything particularly extravagant, there were two costumes in particular in the second act that absolutely caught my eye. The dresses worn by Breor and Dotson’s Joni and Sunny when it came time to record the “show” were absolutely wonderful, and they suited the characters perfectly. And since we are talking about the “filming,” I urge you to keep an eye on the small screen situated above the stage. In a genius move, “live tweets” from the streaming of the show appeared throughout the filming and left the audience in stitches. While I would have loved to see the messages amped up a little to fit the format of a live stream, I think it was still wonderfully effective.
With a show as fun as Sweet Revenge, it really is hard to find anything negative to say. My one real complaint is that the script itself criminally under-utilizes the character of Officer Andy played by Russell Sims. I feel there was a lot that could be done to give him a bit more work because the character himself is a loveable doofus; a doofus Russell Sims played out extremely well. I was left weaning much more of the character and was saddened by his relegation to only two fleeting moments of the show. My only other thing is extremely nit-picky, I must admit, and that is the length of the only real scene transition in the show. It felt unnecessarily drawn out, and that can easily be solved by adding even one more pair of hands to the transition.
Sweet Revenge is adorable. There’s no other way to put it. It’s full of great character moments, authentic relationship dynamics, and wonderful work all around. I absolutely recommend you grab your tickets, but maybe leave your younger children at home unless you feel like explaining Woodstock and the sex and drugs that come with it. There is also some mild language sprinkled throughout.