Strong performances overcome shortcomings in ICT’s The Sweepers

the-sweepers-review.jpgBy Vicki Paris Goodman
Arts and Entertainment Editor

Just as the women remaining stateside sweep the dirt off their front porches each day, so are they expected to “sweep up” the ravages of war. This is, in part, the reproachful message of The Sweepers, John C. Picardi’s World War II-era play enjoying its West Coast premiere at International City Theatre.
The Sweepers focuses on Mary, Dotty and Bella, three Italian-American women in a seedy Italian section of Boston. Their brick and concrete neighborhood may lack greenery, but the environs are the home of the generations-old traditions that allow the women’s close friendship and commonality to sustain them while beloved husbands and sons are defending our nation’s freedoms overseas.
Picardi’s take is at once funny and deadly serious. This is the script’s greatest strength. That fine line between humor and fear, comedy and heartache, establishes its presence early on and wavers only at the very end, where a dramatic change in the play’s tone doesn’t serve it well.
Picardi does an admirable job of distinguishing his main characters. If anything, the three are so specifically different as to seem a bit contrived. Eliciting the requisite chuckles, the learning-starved and politically ill-informed Dotty (Donna Ponterotto) regularly utters mis-statements of well known words and phrases. Well educated Mary (Valerie Perri) just as regularly, though cheerfully, corrects her. The oft-imbibing Bella (Susan Giosa), arguably the most compelling and emotionally complex of the women, keeps a secret that eventually changes everything.
Bella’s son Sonny (Jamie Hobert), who is 4F allegedly due to a heart murmur, has finished law school and intends to marry the upper class Karen (Danielle Vernengo). The tug-o’-war between tradition and modernity, which threatens to tear Sonny in two, is deftly managed by playwright and actors alike.
The Sweepers’ first act builds believably to a state of tension that has our interest in the palm of its hand. Unfortunately, the second act releases its well-earned fisthold, offering up confusing circumstances, ambiguous emotions and an ending that needs to be trimmed down.
Caryn desai (sic) directs a remarkably expressive and entertaining cast who are not to blame for the play’s shortcomings.
In the end, each of the three women has kept a tragic secret, although Mary’s seems inexplicable and even gratuitous. Still, The Sweepers raises important questions about the value of traditions, and their relevance to future generations, that are worth pondering. And Sonny’s ultimate stand, resolving his dilemma, is inspiring.
The Sweepers continues at International City Theatre in the Long Beach Performing Arts Center, located at 300 E. Ocean Blvd., through July 6. Performances are Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m.; Sundays at 2 p.m. Tickets are $32 and $37 on Thursdays; $37 and $42 on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Call (562) 436-4610 for information and reservations or visit www.ictlongbeach.org.

Entertainment
One comment on “Strong performances overcome shortcomings in ICT’s The Sweepers
  1. Pingback: Mimi

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>