The Syringa Tree
Also see Tracy's review of Filler Up
Billed as a “special event,” Studio Theatre’s most recent offering is the Pamela Gien play, The Syringa Tree. The Obie Award winning Off-Broadway play is a solo piece that highlights the lives of a young South African girl and those around her, from the hard years of apartheid to the times of freedom that followed.
Six-year-old Elizabeth drives the story of this difficult time in South Africa’s history. The child of a white doctor and his wife, Elizabeth observes the injustices suffered by her beloved nanny and the servants in her family’s employ. As she matures, the political climate worsens before it gets better. However, Elizabeth does not get through those tumultuous times without experiencing some losses of her own.
Pamela Gien has written an outstanding play that manages to transport the viewer to this troubled world. It is a startling piece that demands attention from the very first bit of dialogue.
Gin Hammond is no stranger to Washington stages and this reviewer is glad to have her back. Ms. Hammond delivers a breathtaking performance. She handles a variety of accents with ease. As a whole, Ms. Hammond’s performance is dynamic. She shows off her range with characters as diverse as a small toddler to a pompous clergyman.
The piece is directed by J.R. Sullivan. Mr. Sullivan’s direction is fluid and even. There is never a moment that one could consider being over the top. The scenic and lighting design was created by Michael Philippi. It is a rather simple set with a large swing. The lighting contributes dramatic effect. However, both the set and the lighting are unobtrusive, leaving the solo actor to make the most impact.
The Syringa Tree isn’t just the story of one little girl. It is the story of a whole nation and in a bigger sense, that of humanity. It is a powerful piece that is well worth seeing. The Syringa Tree runs at Studio Theatre through March 14th.
The Studio Theatre