This Southern Gothic comedy set somewhere near Disneyland has as many plot twists and dark turns as Sugar Mountain.
The Phoenix Theatre, under the talented direction of Eric Lewis, once again brought us a hilarious comedy that bent the envelope a little bit, took us out of our comfort zone here and there and used language that was quite a ways south of crude: “I'm so angry it makes my ass want to chew tobacco.”
Yet, this was one of the best shows I've seen all year. Sure there was a little discomfort but there were also whole sections of flat-out screaming laughter and somehow, unbelievably, some moments of pure poignancy.
The plot is woven in a tight tapestry that I dare not unravel but I can tell you the story revolves around the Sugar Bean sisters, Willie Mae and Faye Clementine Nettles, played by the incomparable team of Melanie Calderwood and Susan Connors.
The sisters are both spinsters but, also, and I'll paraphrase from the script, “crazier than a pair of shithouse rats.”
Willie Mae wants a husband, a Mormon husband, so she can get into the celestial kingdom. No other kingdom will do. Willie Mae suffers from a lot of things but one is that she is bald and a bit past the marrying age so it's a beautifully sad and awfully funny moment when Willie May compares herself at one point in the show to a “bald-headed dog terd trying to be a wedding cookie.”
Faye, a loving sister one presumes, has her own insanities to deal with, primarily preparing for the space people who are expected to land on her swamp as they did 20 years ago and this time take her with them.
Pa Nettles saw the space people back then. He was killed though you'll have to find out why yourself. Let's say it's really hard to guess
The sisters' weird yet routine life is interrupted by a visit from the bird woman, aka Miss Vidalia Sparks a strip club dancer who was played with not a feather out of place by Laura Hanson.
Sparks is visiting because she read about the return of the space people and didn't want to miss the event. But I warn you not to take that story on face value.
Over one evening, the sisters are also visited by Bishop Crumley, played solemnly by Austin Gregory, and the Reptile Woman, this is a swamp after all. Christine Mosere gave this minor role major notice with her great voice and prominent stage presence.
At the end of The Sugar Bean Sisters you will be slightly amazed at what goes on in a swamp but extremely amused.
“Sugar Bean Sisters” plays 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays through Sept. 23 at the Phoenix Theatre, 9673 Firdale Ave., Edmonds. Tickets are $18:50 adults and $15.50 Seniors/Military. Call 206-533-2000 or Brown Paper Tickets.
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