Reviewed by: Natalie Shaw, owner and operator of Dallas Theatre Journal and dallastheatrejournal.com
For years, Rover Dramawerks has been committed to bringing us "theatre off the beaten path." I'll be honest, I've always imagined that this phrase meant that you find your own way in life, or do something radical. But, when I did a little research, I found that it's actually referring to a beaten road that not many people travel. Imagine, if you will, a common road that's paved with concrete and then a smaller detour that veers off into a grassy area, where it's clear that there has been foot-traffic, but it's not a road that has also been paved. It's an uncommon path; one that the every-day person wouldn't necessarily bother to follow. Why would anyone do this? Well, mostly to find something new; a treasure of some kind. But, what does it mean to have "theatre off the beaten path?" Again, I did some more digging on Rover's website, and what I found what really encouraging. Listed in their past seasons are dozens of plays that I've, personally never heard of! In fact, all of my memories of anything Rover has done include plays that are brand new, or new-to-me, which probably means that it's new to ANYONE, or EVERYONE!
This doesn't mean that every play is newly written, but it does mean that every play is one that is not familiar. This is risky! Typical theatre-goers have their favorite shows; ones that many people have seen performed somewhere. For instances, anything by Shakespeare, Wicked, Our Town, The Miracle Worker, Death of a Salesman, Inherit the Wind, A Streetcar Named Desire, West Side Story, A Doll's House, Glass Menagerie, Chicago, Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat, Rent, A Christmas Carol, Alice in Wonderland, and the list goes on and on! The point being, most audience members pay to see the classics, but we also don't need another professional theatre who delivers what we can see just about anywhere! We need something new, original, and fun! Don't get me wrong, I love the favorites, like the next person. But, this! This is where we find treasure, gold and something special.
Sweet Revenge is written by Julie Zaffarano and is set in present day New Jersey. On her website, http://www.juliezaffarano.com/bio.html we read that Zaffrarno "believes everyone's lives are a myriad of stories." Essentially, there are several chapters in the books that make up our lives and several stories make up these chapters. In Sweet Revenge, the character, "Sunny," played by Suzy Dotson reveals that she had a past relationship with someone that dramatically changed her life. And, even though nobody else knew about this past relationship, Sunny was forever changed by it. Suzy Dotson's performance of the particular monologue where she exposes her character's secret was riveting! I sat, listening, with eyes and ears wide open. In a similar way, Sunny's sister, "Jonie," played by Janie Breor struggles to find true love after two divorces and disappointments. Jonie lives to please everyone and neglects to consider her own desires in life. Janie Breor's interpretation of Jonie is witty and on-point, leaving us plenty of room to laugh at Jonie's indecisive and awkward behavior. David Colville brings us a wonderful performance of an endearing "Brian," whom we both love and want to smack across the head! Brian, who is Jonie's new boyfriend is the overly-helpful, critical type that balance's Jonie's character, but also has a tendency to take advantage of her good graces. The unwanted friend, "Officer Andy," is played by Russell Sims, who achieves the portrayal of the uncomfortable, love-struck puppy, who is smitten with Sunny. Although we like Officer Andy, he always seems to show up at the worst time! My personal favorite character is Karina Barrett's "Charlie Charles." Charlie is the assistant to the famous "Maurice Bailey," and the one who makes the most dramatic change for the better. Karina Barrett performs an amiable, but strong-willed Charlie Charles, making her both relatable and charismatic-- we are cheering for her all the way through! Enter "Maurice Bailey!" Scott Hickman plays the two-faced, self-absorbed Twitter star, who despises everyone around him, except for the fans online. Scott Hickman's performance of the villain in this play is very well done, creating his antagonistic character to be comical and cantankerous.
Director, Sara Jones serves us a lighthearted, honest and amusing set of events that are chaotic, humorously awkward and lively in this situational comedy. Sweet Revenge is a gem, rich with banter, laughter and entertainment! Get your tickets for this treasure at https://www.roverdramawerks.com/ Most appropriate for ages 14 and up.
Picture 1: David Colville, Janie Breor, and Scott Hickman
Picture 2: Russell Sims and Suzy Dotson
Picture 3: Russell Sims, Karina Barrett, and Suzy Doston
All photos by Carol M. Rice