New Day Rising: Penny Seats' "Sunrise Coven" tackles the opioid epidemic and second chances


Jeannine Thompson (Hallie), Allison Megroet (Winter Moon), David Collins (Ethan) in Penny Seats' Sunrise Coven.

Jeannine Thompson (Hallie), Allison Megroet (Winter Moon), David Collins (Ethan) star in Penny Seats' Sunrise Coven. Photo courtesy of Penny Seats Theatre Company.

It’s no secret the United States has a drug problem, and painkillers are at the top of the list. The Penny Seats Theatre Company’s Sunrise Coven tackles that conversation and then some.

Written by Brendan Bourque-Sheil, the show takes place in Buckstop, Texas, a small town where everyone knows everyone else and all their business. We meet Hallie Heaton (Jeannine Thompson), a diabetic nurse practitioner who has wound up in the hospital because she overdosed on Oxycodone. The doctor taking care of her is Annie (Inchai Reed), who reveals she has based her entire career on Hallie and sees her as an idol.

Hallie gets the unfortunate news that due to her OD, she has lost her nursing license. On top of that, her eyesight is starting to go bad and she's having visions she can’t explain. 

After Hallie's mandatory 72-hour hold, she meets with Ethan (David Collins) at a local gem store. Ethan is a sword enthusiast who is also a drug dealer. Turns out, not only was Hallie writing scrips for Oxy that he would then fill for her, they were also working as a team to deal the painkillers to the town as well. After her recent OD, Ethan wants out and Hallie is pissed about it. 

Ethan leaves Hallie alone in the gem store and she meets the owner, Winter Moon (Allison Megroet). Winter Moon confesses that she is a witch and Hallie accuses her of running a coven. Winter also says she thinks Hallie has some sort of magic in her, though she denies it. 

Jeannine Thompson (Hallie) and Inchai Reed (Annie) in Penny Seats' Sunrise Coven.

Jeannine Thompson (Hallie) and Inchai Reed (Annie) in Penny Seats' Sunrise Coven. Photo courtesy of Penny Seats Theatre Company.

Back at the hospital, Hallie doesn't get any answers about the visions she is having. Doctor Annie also gives her some insulin free of charge, knowing she will have a hard time affording it because Hallie lost her health insurance when she lost her license. 

Hallie then has a brilliant idea and meets with Ethan at Winter Moon’s store. She pitches the idea that they go to Mexico and get prescription drugs for a fraction of the price and bring them back to sell. These drugs are only to help people, like insulins, beta-blockers, estrogen, etc. They could sell them in Winter Moon’s store and use the coven as a front. If anyone asks, they say it’s religious healing. Everyone agrees to the plan.

Soon, business is booming and they are helping a lot of people who would otherwise not be able to afford their medications. But with her eyesight failing, Hallie is forced to use a white cane to help her get around.

Jax (Andy Jones), a loyal customer, felt so touched by all the work Hallie is doing that he made a miniature metal statue of her as an angel. Winter Moon hides it from Hallie but Jax says he wants to make a huge one of her to put in the town.

Annie stops by the store and calls out the illegal operation, claiming she will call the FBI if they don’t stop. Hallie argues with her but has another vision, this one more vivid. She then learns about the giant statue and is appalled. She decides to tell the whole town about her past addiction and drug dealing so they can know what she’s done and not see her as this angel.

During the ceremony, and after Hallie’s big confession, lightning hits the giant metal statue and Ethan accidentally pushes Hallie into it, thinking it was about to fall on her. Hallie wakes up in the hospital with a concussion and learns that the town still loves her, even after knowing everything that she’s done. They know she’s turned her life around, is sober, and is running a new operation that is actually helping people. Annie confesses she won’t turn the business in either, knowing the good it is doing. 

Hallie has found her second chance in life and her heart. 

Allison Megroet as Winter Moon in Penny Seats' Sunrise Coven.

Allison Megroet as Winter Moon in Penny Seats' Sunrise Coven. Photo courtesy of Penny Seats Theatre Company.

Sunrise Coven is extremely well written and it has a nice pace. For a two-hour show, it really moves and I wasn’t even aware of how much time had passed when the show ended. Director Amanda Buchalter did a wonderful job of keeping the scenes energetic and fast-paced while also giving the actors moments to slow down and show vulnerability. This production is the Michigan premiere, but I can see it becoming popular with other companies in the state.

Jeannine Thompson is fantastic as Hallie, doing an incredible job of showing the physical tics of an addict in withdrawal, while also progressing the character’s blindness. I thoroughly enjoyed her performance. David Collins also adds wonderful comedic moments as Ethan, while also giving the audience glimpses of being a war veteran with PTSD.

Raymond Buchalter’s set is nicely done, creating a realistic rock shop with shelves full of knick-knacks and the like. Costume designer Emily Betz also nails it, especially with the way she clothed the eccentric character Winter Moon. 

The entire production is a great success, from the talented cast to the detailed designs, and Penny Seats has created another wonderful show.

Marley Boone is a theater professional who has been in the industry since 2015. While living in Philadelphia, she wrote theater reviews for DC Metro Arts.

“Sunrise Coven“ with The Penny Seat Theatre Company runs from November 30 to December 17 at the Stone Chalet Event Center, 1917 Washtenaw Avenue, Ann Arbor. More information and tickets can be found here.