Sugarward, the boringly mesmerizing new play by Sean Graney (though not directed by Sean Graney; directed by Geoff Button), strikes that delicate balance of being almost impossible to follow if you aren’t paying attention at all and being about several things it’s not ostensibly about.
In four terrible but excellent performances, John Henry Roberts (as Colonel Parke) and Joel Ewing (as manservant Thomas Kirby, former Governor Christopher Codrington, and corrupt sugar baron Edward Chester) have obviously memorized their lines. And what lines they are! To be honest though, I didn’t immediately understand some of the words in those lines until I thought about the context in which they were used. Having then gleaned their meaning via a process of brain engagement, it was exciting because the writer (Sean Graney, who didn’t direct the play) would use them again and again and it was like getting a little treat every time you heard them because you had learned something earlier that you didn’t know before but now that you had learned it it was fun to be in on the joke and all of the sudden realize that a play can be about something other than people just sitting around complaining about a playwright’s loosely fictionalized friends and relatives. (Also: don’t worry if you’re hard of hearing or feeling, because Joel Ewing projects at Metallica concert-like levels, accompanying every plosive with a justly infused shower of spittle. [As alluded to above, Joel Ewing does play several different parts which is confusing unless you just accept it.])
Geoff Button directed this play as well as he could…which was actually really, really, really well. He did an awesome job with it. He spots Roberts and Ewing’s verbal calisthenics when they’re at the polysyllabic pull-up bar and holds their feet when they’re doing emotional sit ups.
Alright. Let’s get down to brass tacks here. No more smarming around.
There’s no need for a plot summary, just go see the play and know that what makes it so damn interesting is it’s assertion that the drive to obtain and ultimately possess power is, in fact, less dangerous than the desire men and women have to believe in those who pursue that power. Oh, and it’s also about sugar.