Make us your home page

Review: Stageworks' The Sugar Bean Sisters' is full of Florida fun

Need proof of the play’s Florida-ness? Look no further than the characters of the Reptile Woman (Ami Sallee, left) and exotic dancer Videllia Sparks (Caitlin Eason).

Courtesy of Caroline Jett

Need proof of the play’s Florida-ness? Look no further than the characters of the Reptile Woman (Ami Sallee, left) and exotic dancer Videllia Sparks (Caitlin Eason).

TAMPA — Terrible, awful things happen every day in Sugar Bean. Weird things. Things no one can explain. Florida things.

Stageworks Theatre's latest production, an absurd Southern gothic comedy set in the fictional swamp town of Sugar Bean, Fla., is about three women desperate to escape the drudgery of their lives. One wants to be taken away by aliens. One wants to find a good Mormon husband and get to the celestial kingdom, not "one of those lower kingdoms." And the other just wants out of her troubled, small-town existence.

They take turns uttering playwright Nathan Sanders' belly laugh lines, including, "You can roll a dog turd in powdered sugar but that still don't make it no wedding cookie." It's a good time directed by Stageworks' artistic director Karla Hartley, tongue way in cheek. If you can laugh about Florida's stranger cultural gewgaws, you will enjoy yourself.

For your hunting pleasure, here are a handful of Sunshine State shout-outs to look for in The Sugar Bean Sisters.

Mysterious swamps

Most of the Nettles family has perished in tragic, weird ways around Buster Swamp. Here's one example: A flying swamp cat took the Nettles sisters' mama. But what's real? What's hallucinatory? "The swamp will play tricks on your imagination," says Willie Mae Nettles, played elegantly by Rosemary Orlando.

The names

An exotic dancer named Videllia Sparks (the wide-eyed Caitlin Eason), whose personal style revolves around purple feathers and power mesh, comes seeking help from the Nettles sisters when her car breaks down around Yeehaw Junction. Sound familiar? And the family home is situated near the great Watchalahoochee River. Yes, that's Watchalahoochee, not Withlacoochee.

The beauty queens

Florida loves its big-haired pageant queens. Look no further than our own small town cadre of queens in the Plant City Strawberry Festival. Sugar Bean has its own set of gussied-up junior royalty, except in this story, all the beauty queens have been poisoned by a batch of cane syrup mixed with rat poison. Dead pageant queens! Not so cute.

The reptiles

Gators leaving behind bloody pieces of a church dress and a Mormon-biting coral snake factor into the darker bits of The Sugar Bean Sisters. A critter-collecting Reptile Woman, played arrestingly by Ami Sallee, is called to the Nettles home to search for a snake, issuing some spooky prophecy about the fractured Nettles family dynamics in the process.

The crops

The sisters live on their dead daddy's sugarcane field. Faye Clementine Nettles (bold, brash Caroline Jett) previously witnessed the crash-landing of an alien space ship there, landing her on the cover of the Weekly World News. But it's not Florida without a citrus fortune, which Willie stands to inherit. She keeps the location of the buried treasure in her Book of Mormon, which no one can touch except maybe the swoon-worthy Bishop Crumley (Ned Averill-Snell).

The Mouse

When the play begins, the Nettles sisters have returned from a nightmarish trip to Disney World in which Willie Mae's Eva Gabor wig flies off on Space Mountain and they get stuck on the tram looking for the Goofy lot. Later, Faye stands on the roof and beckons the aliens with the earwig lyrics to It's a Small World. But the royal reign of the mouse is clear when Videllia tells Faye, "You've never been anywhere in your whole entire life." "I've been to Disney World," she indignantly replies. In Florida, that's saying something.

Stephanie Hayes can be reached at or (727) 893-8716.


The Sugar Bean Sisters

Runs through June 29 at Stageworks Theatre, 1120 E Kennedy Blvd. in Tampa. $26-$35, (813)374-2416.

Review: Stageworks' The Sugar Bean Sisters' is full of Florida fun 06/20/14 [Last modified: Monday, June 23, 2014 4:10pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Glen Campbell's wife Kim discusses challenges, guilt caregivers of Alzheimer's patients, others face

    Life Times

    If there's one thing Kim Campbell would change about caregiving for Alzheimer's patients, it's the attitude so many of us have toward transferring a loved one from home to a long-term care facility. According to Campbell, it's often the most kind, loving decision you can make. It's not a sign of failure, but one of …

    Kim Campbell, wife of country music legend Glen Campbell, is acknowledged by those attending the free event where she shared the story of her personal journey with Alzheimer???‚??„?s disease and the struggles she faced caring for her husband on Friday (5/26/17) at the Suncoast Hospice's Empath Health Service Center in Clearwater. Empath Choices for Care, a member of Empath Health, and Arden Courts Memory Care hosted the free event where Kim shared her story to help others understand the early stages, how the disease changes lives, the challenges families face and the role of caregiver.
  2. What happened when I took my dad to a Pitbull concert

    Music & Concerts

    TAMPA — "So, you know how you like Pitbull?" I asked my dad. "We can see him."

    Selfie of Divya Kumar and Anand Kumar at Pitbull/Enrique Iglesias concert.
  3. Tampa City Council votes to accept travel invitation from Cuban ambassador


    The invitation came to Tampa City Council chairwoman Yvonne Yolie Capin in a June 9 letter from Cuban ambassador to the United States José Ramón Cabañas Rodriguez.

    The Tampa City Council voted 6-0, with Frank Reddick out of the room, to respond to a travel invitation from Cuban ambassador to the United States José Ramón Cabañas Rodriguez.
  4. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for June 25


    St. Pete Pride Festival: The daytime festival covers Central Avenue's Grand Central District with more than 350 vendors, multiple stages, live music, art and food. 9 a.m., Grand Central District, 2429 Central Ave., St. Petersburg. Free. (727) 342-0084.

    Kristen Whalen poses for a photo before the start of the St. Pete Pride Parade in St. Petersburg last year. It's that time of year again, so check with us for your planning purposes. [LUIS SANTANA  |   Times (2016)]
  5. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for June 24


    St. Pete Pride Block Party and Night Parade: St. Pete Pride's popular parade moves to downtown St. Petersburg's scenic waterfront. The block party brings DJs, food and drinks starting at 2 p.m. The parade steps off at Fifth Ave NE and Bayshore at 7 p.m. with fireworks at 9:45 p.m. 2 p.m., North Straub Park, Fifth …

    Thousands line the streets of Central Ave. during the St. Pete Pride Parade in St. Petersburg.  [Saturday, June 25, 2016] [Photo Luis Santana | Times]