Review: The Syringa Tree

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As a special bonus for Vancouver Playhouse theatre-goers, the Vancouver Playhouse has brought back the Syringa Tree for a short run again this year.  And lucky for those of us that enjoy good theatre!

Set in 1960s apartheid South Africa, this one-woman show brings to life the story of two families, one white and one black and the two children that are born into their shared households during this dark time in history.

Jessie and Dora Award winner for her portrayal of this role in 2004, Caroline Cave, reprises her role once again and does an amazing job of becoming over 20 different characters in the space of this 100 minute show.

Taking place on a bare stage, save for a swing, Cave easily moves from one character to another, sometimes mesmerizing us with her characterizations and the events-of-the-day.  Her ability to carry on the narrative as she jumps from one character to the next propels the story forward and could easily have been a disaster for a less compelling and skilled actor.

Our only quibble is the feeling that as the central character, Lizzie, grows older the play becomes less developed and almost rushes to its tear-filled and somewhat not unexpected ending.

Director Larry Moss gets the most of Cave during the evening and is aided magnificently by the lighting and sound from Steven B. Mannshardt and Tony Suraci.

It is not hard to understand why the Playhouse decided to bring back this gem.  The three standing ovations for Cave on opening night is a testament to her abilities as an actor and the story.

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