Playwright: Scott Hudson
Venue: Miner’s Alley Playhouse, 1224 Washington Avenue, Golden, CO
Company: Miner’s Alley Players
Date of Performance: Sunday, June 24, 2012
Running Time: 1 hour, 25 minutes (no intermission).
To describe this play as “intimate” does not really convey how uncommonly personal it is. The two actors portray the first 90 minutes of their marriage. They’ve come straight from the ceremony to the handmade tree house where they will spend their wedding night. What could possibly be more intimate, more personal, or more private?
For the audience, it is a privilege to be admitted to such a special moment, but it also seems somewhat voyeuristic. It’s an unusual premise, but one ripe with dramatic opportunities. “Sweet Storm” is not about consummating the marriage, at least not in the usual sense. Rather, it’s a window into a relationship between two people, and their personal relationships with God.
Bo (Michael Bouchard) is a preacher, and Ruthie (Rachel Bouchard) is having a justifiable crisis of faith. It’s awkward at times to watch them interact; they hardly know each other on their wedding day, and they barely know how to communicate with each other. They are naïve, innocent, and yet bonded together in a new and unfamiliar way.
Ruthie asks the question that Bo has heard many times, and a question all of us have probably asked ourselves from time to time: “Do you think we’re punished for the bad things we do?”
It’s a central question. Does God visit disasters on us for our transgressions? Do we suffer because we’ve offended the Creator? If we have faith and lead a virtuous life, why would God punish us? Or is suffering random, just a matter of bad luck? Bo’s faith is strong, Ruthie’s is understandably weak.
Ruthie asks Bo “is luck in the Bible?” Of course, luck is not in the Bible. Luck is our way of rationalizing the randomness that intrudes on our lives. But if luck is not the reason for Ruthie’s predicament, how can it possibly be explained or understood? It is the questions Ruthie asks, and that Bo can’t answer, that power “Sweet Storm.”
That the actors here, Michael and Rachel Bouchard, are actually married to each other adds an interesting dimension to their performances. They have shared their own intimate wedding night with each other. They have had those moments, some of them no doubt awkward, where they began to understand each other on a very deep, personal level. And that experience informs their sincere, strong performances.
Putting a tree house on a stage is a challenge, but Richard Pegg, Scenic Designer, has created a gem that is both realistic and functional. The stage lighting includes a working kerosene lantern, which is exactly what one might find in a tree house. Lighting and sound are combined effectively throughout the performance to put the audience in a continuous thunderstorm.
Robert Kramer’s direction exquisitely portrays the tension, the love, and the struggle the couple faces on their wedding night. Kramer’s recent credits include “A Small Fire” at The Edge Theater, another intimate and powerful production, and one of my personal favorites of 2012. “Sweet Storm” again demonstrates his skill for coaxing the most personal emotions from his actors.
Theater sometimes jars us into thinking about our own lives, and “Sweet Storm” is one of those thought provoking, rewarding experiences. “Sweet Storm” may not give you the answers you seek, but it will force you to ask yourself the questions.
Director: Robert Kramer
Scenic Designer/Construction: Richard H. Pegg
Rachel Bouchard (“Mrs. Ruthie Harrison”)
Michael Bouchard (“Mr. Boas Harrison”)