THE SUGAR WITCH – A Winner At New Conservatory Theatre Center

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By Seán Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Photo by Lynn Imanaka

THE SUGAR WITCH, now at New Conservatory Theatre Center is a charming and edgy blend of mystery, madness, murder, and mountainous dreams. The production, directed by Dennis Lickteig, is NCTC at its best. Scenic designs by Kuo-Hao Lo and lighting by John Kelly call up an atmosphere of eeriness and dread in this very out-of-the-way ramshackle homestead by the swamps of Florida’s Watchalahoochee River. The playwright, Nathan Sanders, describes his work as a “Southern Gothic Tale”. Bigger than life is one of its traits. Morality another. Sometimes there’s a body around. The kicker is in the subtlety. The brightest fire is its Femme Fatale. Kendra Owens as “Annabelle” – the Sugar Witch – is a steady flame of wisdom, love, and desire. And scary enough to make you believe in ancient spells and flying cats. It’s pure Southern Gothic.

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Michael Phillis (Moses), William Giammona (Hank), Kendra Owens (Annabelle)

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Kendra Owens and Michael Phillis

The vision of director Dennis Lickteig and the venue of the Decker Theatre are a great match. The cast is excellent – a true ensemble. They’re all in the same diversly-haunted story. The emotions are real and some of the waters run very deep. It’s a very private and guarded world, this house and property of what’s left of the Bean Family. The boy, Moses, (Michael Phillis) may be the last “Bean”. He’s all of a sudden crazy in love with a hunky ex-con, Hank Hartley, the town’s Undertaker (William Giammona). Convenient, yes – for what’s about to happen. But, back then, a bit more awkward.

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Amelia Mulkey (Ruth-Ann), Kendra Owens, A.J. Davenport (Sisser)

The older sister, Sisser (A.J. Davenport), is plum loco, obese, high on sugar, and sold on the promise of eternal salvation via sacramental immersion down by the river. Good idea. She just put an ax through young Ruth-Ann Meeks’ (Amelia Mulkey) pretty blonde skull. In the parlor! And no one’s sponged-off the blood yet! Sisser will be wearing her new pink dress as the healing waters cover her head. The gators may be the last to see her in it.

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Michael Phillis, William Giammona, and Jay Smith (Granddaddy Meeks)

Lickteig draws us into the Family secrets and shows us the unwelcome guest. The social and sexual tensions are true and irresistible. We get wrapped up in favor of the conspiracies – no matter the prescriptions and consequences of Law and Local Church (which is super-huge here in Watchalahoochee) – and we get revved-up and anxious about the final getaway. Dennis Lickteig makes the Strange plausible in this exceptionally well done presentation of THE SUGAR WITCH.

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THE SUGAR WITCH – Michael Phillis and William Giammona

Click here to purchase tickets on-line: THE SUGAR WITCH

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Seán Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Seán Martinfield, who also serves as Fine Arts Critic, is a native San Franciscan. He is a Theatre Arts Graduate from San Francisco State University, a professional singer, and well-known private vocal coach to Bay Area actors and singers of all ages and persuasions. His clients have appeared in Broadway National Tours including Wicked, Aïda, Miss Saigon, Rent, Bye Bye Birdie, in theatres and cabarets throughout the Bay Area, and are regularly featured in major City events including Diva Fest, Gay Pride, and Halloween In The Castro. As an Internet consultant in vocal development and audition preparation he has published thousands of responses to those seeking his advice concerning singing techniques, professional and academic auditions, and careers in the Performing Arts. Mr. Martinfield’s Broadway clients have all profited from his vocal methodology, “The Belter’s Method”, which is being prepared for publication. If you want answers about your vocal technique, post him a question on AllExperts.com. If you would like to build up your vocal performance chops and participate in the Bay Area’s rich theatrical scene, e-mail him at: sean.martinfield@comcast.net.

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