Advertisement

St. Petersburg playwright pens a comedy perfect for the season

“Nightsweat” at Freefall Theatre was written by local playwright Natalie Symons.
 
Clockwise from top, Heather Baird, Kristin Carbone, Jan Neuberger and Sara DelBeato in Freefall Theatre's production of "Nightsweat," which continues through Nov. 5 in St. Petersburg.
Clockwise from top, Heather Baird, Kristin Carbone, Jan Neuberger and Sara DelBeato in Freefall Theatre's production of "Nightsweat," which continues through Nov. 5 in St. Petersburg. [ STEVEN LE - THEE PHOTO NINJA | Courtesy of Freefall Theatre ]
Published Oct. 14, 2023

ST. PETERSBURG — Take a cast of irreverent women, throw in biting jokes about Florida and cancel culture, add a dash of murder and you have the perfect recipe for a fun theater experience.

“Nightsweat” at Freefall Theatre was penned by St. Petersburg-based playwright Natalie Symons, whose other play, “The People Downstairs,” premiered at American Stage and won the Broadway World Regional Award for Best Original Script of the Decade.

Actor Matthew McGee, who starred in “The People Downstairs,” came up with the premise of “Nightsweat”: “After a Hollywood Housewife’s recent scandal ignites a flurry of backlash on social media, she and her entourage flee to the countryside to hide from the haters. But things go horribly, comically wrong.”

From left, Heather Baird, Kristin Carbone, Sara DelBeato and Hillary Scales-Lewis in Freefall Theatre's production of "Nightsweat."
From left, Heather Baird, Kristin Carbone, Sara DelBeato and Hillary Scales-Lewis in Freefall Theatre's production of "Nightsweat." [ STEVEN LE - THEE PHOTO NINJA | Courtesy of Freefall Theatre ]

Symons said in a phone interview that she wanted to create a farce — especially one that lets women be silly — as an escape from the woes of the everyday world.

“I’m always curious why regional theater is sort of inundating their audiences with very topical theater — which, there’s a great place for that and I love a lot of that theater — but isn’t there room for, you know, a ‘Bridesmaids’ for the theater?” she said.

Cancel culture is ripe for farce, she said, a genre that usually includes misunderstandings and mistaken identities.

“Nightsweat” was directed by Freefall’s Eric Davis, who also designed the set, costumes and sound. Symons said he brought a lot of campy elements to the show that enhanced its farcical nature.

Britney Cox (Kristin Carbone) is the housewife who has been “canceled” after playing Ursula in a small production of “The Little Mermaid” in Buffalo, New York. She’s getting backlash because, her detractors say, the role should have been played by a real trans octopus rather than a straight white woman.

So she retreats to a haunted Airbnb in the Berkshires in Massachusetts with her entourage for what’s supposed to be a murder mystery-themed weekend. Along for the ride is her assistant, Maude Bender (Heather Baird), who’s a bit younger than the rest of the women, easily triggered and “too virtuous to have fun.”

Tawny Fitzsimmons (Sara DelBeato) is a boisterous makeup artist who’s relieved to be away from her triplets, aka “three-headed monster,” and her husband, Dick.

Dale James (Hillary Scales-Lewis) is Britney’s no-nonsense security guard who tries to keep the women safe — and in check.

As they settle into their taxidermy-filled digs, they discover another tenant, the mysterious Mrs. Bates (Jan Neuberger). It turns out she’s the landlord and lives with her reclusive nephew, Steven Paul (Joe Ditmyer), who sleeps in the basement and is “probably building a pipe bomb.”

Planning your weekend?

Subscribe to our free Top 5 things to do newsletter

We’ll deliver ideas every Thursday for going out, staying home or spending time outdoors.

You’re all signed up!

Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.

Explore all your options
The "Nightsweat" cast includes, seated from left, Kristin Carbone, Joe Ditmyer and Heather Baird and, standing, Hillary Scales-Lewis.
The "Nightsweat" cast includes, seated from left, Kristin Carbone, Joe Ditmyer and Heather Baird and, standing, Hillary Scales-Lewis. [ STEVEN LE - THEE PHOTO NINJA | Courtesy of Freefall Theatre ]

Their car has broken down, and now there’s news of an escaped serial killer on the loose. His targets are “pre-elderly” women age 45 to 55. He brings their dead bodies to Florida.

The show is full of madcap hilarity. This cast of women is a comedic force, and Ditmyer is their perfect foil. “Nightsweat” feels particularly topical, not only for the Halloween season but also in the zeitgeist. As Symons said, art should live in the time it was made.

What to know before you go to “Nightsweat.”

The play runs through Nov. 5. $45-$55. Freefall Theatre, 6099 Central Ave., St. Petersburg. 727-498-5205. freefalltheatre.com.