U of MN offers “Sweet Revenge” for its summer showboat production

If you find your summer movie choices are lacking in leading women, perhaps you might give local theater a try.

Sweet Revenge! (or: No Mother to Guide Her) runs through August 24 on the Minnesota Centennial Showboat


One of the stronger female characters you’ll find on stage this summer was created back in 1905, before women even had the right to vote.

Bunco is an orphan girl who knows how to use a gun, and is ready to use it to protect her friends. She’s one of the stars of the melodrama “Sweet Revenge,” being staged at the Minnesota Centennial Showboat by the University of Minnesota Theater Department.

U of M Theatre Arts & Dance producing director Carrie Van Hallgren says the play was originally called “No Mother to Guide Her” but decided to change the title for marketing reasons.

“I think ‘No Mother to Guide Her’ is a really great name for a melodrama, but I worried that it would be a turnoff,” said Van Hallgren. “None of the women have mothers… but it really doesn’t tell you much about the play.”

Lillian Mortimer, one of the era’s few female playwrights, wrote the show, creating an equal number of parts for men and women, both bad and good.

The story is action heavy, featuring bank robbers, several attempted murders, and a couple of kidnappings. But, like many melodramas, scenes are separated by “olios” – variety acts or musical interludes – to give time for scene and costume changes.

Carrie Van Hallgren says she loves the “girl power” of the play.

“It’s reflected in our music too; in one olio we have these three amazing female singers perform a ‘belt-off’ of famous arias,” said Van Hallgren.

Lillian Mortimer wrote more than 40 plays in her lifetime, and the character of Bunco appears in several of them.