BWW Reviews: SDT New Works Laboratory's Fun and Funny Production of FOUR SUGARS
It's always nice to have the opportunity to attend something new and fresh when you see as many shows as I do, and local playwright/actor/director Stephen Peirick's original play, Four Sugars, delivers an engaging and entertaining experience. In this age of cynicism we currently find ourselves in, it's also a relief, emotionally at least, to find something that's both amusing and hopeful. A well acted and directed presentation of this work was recently produced as part of of SDT's (Stray Dog Theatre) New Works Laboratory (August 21-23), and played to packed houses at the Tower Grove Abbey that definitely appreciated the humor and antics Peirick has crafted. Count me among those who found this to be a wonderfully funny show that truly deserves the warm response that it received.
The plot centers around a group of five characters that are all, in one way or another, experiencing dramatic changes in their lives and attitudes. Each of them is "coming of age" due to different circumstances. Travis is finally exploring his sexuality with Shawn, despite that fact that's he's currently in a marriage of convenience. His "wife", Alyse, is an acerbic and difficult woman who married Travis to become an American citizen. Though she's dating a guy named Ryan, she's become frustrated with his immature behavior. Phil is their neighbor who lives next door, and who is privy to all the goings on thanks to some paper thin apartment walls that allow him (and their other neighbors) to eavesdrop on their lives. Events transpire over the course of the play that impact each of them, forcing them to make decisions that will ultimately affect the course their lives will take.
Jonathan Elkins does sharp work as Travis, and he neatly conveys his initial nervousness when he first hooks up with Shawn. Mitch Eagles is very good as Shawn, and it's especially amusing watching him verbally spar with Alyse. Sarajane Alverson contributes an excellent performance as the bitchy Alyse, adding another fine interpretation to her already burgeoning repertoire. Aaron Dodd also performs well as Ryan, with his character making an initial bad impression before he straightens himself out. Nearly stealing the show is Jason Meyers as Phil, their neurotic neighbor. Meyers excels by bringing energy and physical schtick to the part, making an impression every time he steps on stage.
Stephen Peirick's direction (with able assistance from Jeff Kargus and Katie Puglisi) is assured and steady throughout, and he costumes his characters in clothing that fits their personalities, while retaining a casual and naturalistic feel. Ken Clark's scenic design is straightforward and nicely appointed, utilizing the space to allow for seamless transitions that keep things moving along. Tyler Duenow's lighting, as always, captures the action without being overly flashy or artsy, which is perfect for this comedy.
Stephen Peirick's Four Sugars has a lot of commercial potential; it's basically a single set, has only five characters to cast, and it's genuinely well written. Kudos to the SDT New Theatre Laboratory for giving this show a staging that allows this new work to shine as brightly as it does.