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Monday, May 21, 2018
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Mormons, aliens and more in ‘Sugar Bean Sisters’ at Stageworks Theatre

Two eccentric Florida spinsters, living near the fictional town of Sugar Bean, take audiences on a funny, offbeat journey in the comedy, “The Sugar Bean Sisters,” playing at the Stageworks Theatre in Tampa’s Channelside.

The Nettle sisters, Faye and Willie Mae, became Mormons because few visitors other than Mormon missionaries ever came to their door in the swamp near Yeehaw Junction — except maybe some aliens from Mars.

But that was 20 years ago, and Faye has been waiting for the spaceship to return ever since.

Playwright Nathan Sanders has filled his charming story with a parade of oddball characters including the sisters, a snake charmer, a Mormon Bishop and a mysterious bird woman.

The play opened Thursday night and runs through June 29 at Stageworks 1120 E. Kennedy Blvd., West Bldg., #151, Tampa.

When the story begins, the sisters have just returned from a day trip to Disney World where Willie Mae lost her favorite Eva Gabor wig.

Actor Rosemary Orlando says she has never portrayed a character like Willie Mae who is almost “over the top.”

“She wants to be a devout Mormon, and she is very dependent on her younger sister,” say Orlando. “She fears creatures in the night, and there was a younger sister who was eaten by alligators.”

“It’s very Southern Gothic ... it borders on farcical,” says Orlando, who has long been a part of Tampa’s acting community as an actor in numerous productions, director, theater manager and college drama professor.

“We love it that the play refers to Yeehaw Junction,” says Caroline Jett, who is making her second appearance in a Stageworks production. “How many people know where Yeehaw is?”

Jett portrays Faye Clementine Nettles. Another veteran of the local stage, Jett says the play is “silly and funny,” and she’s having a lot of fun playing this character.

“She is from the backwoods and a little unsophisticated and innocent in her beliefs,” says Jett. “She believes strongly in ghosts, spooks and aliens and all kinds of things.

“She is looking forward to the 20th anniversary of what she believes was an alien landing in the swamp, and she is preparing for their return because she wants to go with them.”

Jett coaches the actors at the Bay Area Renaissance Festival and for years has portrayed Queen Katherine.

Sanders received the Oppenheimer Award nomination from New York Newsday for the “most impressive debut of a new American playwright” for the Off-Broadway production of his first play, “The Sugar Bean Sisters,” at the WPA Theatre in New York City. Since that time, the play has been produced across the country.

Also in the cast are Ami Sallee as The Reptile Woman, Ned Averill-Snell as Bishop Crumley and Caitlin Eason as Miss Vidella Sparks.

Karla Hartley is the director. Already this year, Hartley has directed Stageworks’ production of “A Few Good Men” and the American Stage (in St. Petersburg) production of “The Wiz.”

During the run of the play, an art exhibit, “Swamp Art for Sugar Bean Sisters” will be on display at the theater. This is a group art show by 20 award-winning artists from the Tampa Life Enrichment Center.

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