All rise for the criticism of Sweet Murderesses, as the prosecutor presses charges against The Sweet Murderesses Collective in a murder trial at the In The Soil Festival Arts Festival. Created by Yolanda Ferrato and her partners in crime Karyn De Jong and Zita Nyarady, Sweet Murderesses features the eerie and gruesome stories of three female killers, but fails to convey to the audience the emotional core of these women.

Courthouse Theatre houses this non-linear show, which uses overlapping monologuing to tell the audience (‘tell’ being the operative word, not ‘show’) their dark secrets. The stories told by young girl Mary (De Jong) — the only name to be picked-up by audience members — the over-worked maid (Nyarady), and emotionally abused daughter (Ferrato), leave no surprises, nor do they succeed in conveying their macabre nature. The overlapping style should work – but a lack of urgency onstage makes this fast-paced style fall flat.

The major failing of Sweet Murderesses is the fact that an unjustly amount of their spoken lines are either overlapped (obviously by accident) and or trail off, leaving awkward moments of silence in the spaces. Silence is arguably the most dramatic moments in any show, but without strong presence to the text, it just leaves audiences uncomfortable. An actor must earn their pauses, and these under-rehearsed performers did not do so.

Another charge: the play gives away the victims of the accused fairly early off (which, granted, in a non-linear play isn’t that bad, and could provide some interesting drama), then proceeds to talk in repetitive circles about these victims, with no real action of consequence happening until the very last scene (and even then, it’s delivered directly to the audience with no change in intention or passion). There is no real journey happening: the characters are the same in the end as they were in the beginning.

The only interesting part was hearing how each individual girl executed their evil acts. Other than that, I’m sad to say I tapped out of the performance due to the ungodly amount of exposition in it. Spoon-feeding audiences information is dangerous, and it’s crucial to be able to trust the audience to follow any kind of story. Sometimes leaving them with some unanswered questions is the best way; allowing them to use their imagination in filling the spaces of the story can engage an audience in ways simply telling them the ‘truth’ never will. The dramatic content that I yearn for is within the aftermath of the murder cases, where there is a shimmer of potential for this dark production. I strongly recommend a workshopping process – with an outside director – that focuses on research that adds to the specificity of character and events.

After long deliberation, I sentence Sweet Murderesses to being a strong and hard-working production that needs serious attention. I look forward to a future project, in hopes that they can make bail and receive a pardon for this calamity of a production.

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