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Theater Info for the Washington DC region

Signature Theatre Sycamore Trees

By • Jun 12th, 2010 • Category: Reviews
Sycamore Trees
Signature Theatre
Signature Theatre, Arlington, VA
Through June 13th
2:15
$64-$69
Reviewed May 30, 2010

Sycamore Trees – How a family can survive a multitude of known dysfunctions. No set and boring drab costuming, save for a few and for what? Ok, I’m still working on that. This is a show with some very interesting parts but without a core. In Sycamore Trees there doesn’t seem to be a core. This play, even with all its fabulous singing and acting has no real focus other than the dysfunctional cornucopias each member of this Middle Class Post War Jewish family on Long Island has. All in all this play was a depressing play that just happens to have fabulous directing, acting and musical direction.

OK. Let’s view this show. A bare set which asks us to use our collective imaginations to view this family as it travels from the 1940’s through to today. A lot of lamps are piled up back left which aren’t used. Still trying to figure that out, but I digress. The back wall is lined with clothing racks filled with clothing for the actors to adorn based on the time period they were entering into.

Tina Landau (Director) has the task of taking this play through time. She does this with subtle movements of the actors at times and at other times the script takes us through. She also has lighted signs notifying us of time changes as well. She made sure each actor has their proper focus with seeming effortlessness. She made this show as good as it can possibly be.

Alright. Alright! The acting in this play is so very good. Diane Sutherland brilliantly plays Edie (the mother). Diane’s singing and acting are a delight and anyone with aspirations of a musical theatre career would do well to watch and emulate Ms. Sutherland. Marc Kudisch plays Sydney (the father) so well that it’s pure joy to watch him. You will forget you’re watching an actor play the role. He’s that good. Jessica Molaskey plays Myrna (the oldest sister) with a lovely understated command of being the eldest sibling. It must have been an ordeal playing doped up while in heels, but she was so good I could feel her character’s pain. Judy Kuhn plays Theresa (the middle sister), and is so spot on with her character that you’ll be able to say, “I know this woman! I remember her from the 60’s & 70’s!” Farah Alvin plays Ginnie (the youngest sister) appropriately so. Her attention to the moments of restraint being the youngest and knowing when to take the stage were a pleasure to watch. Tony Yazbeck plays Andrew (the son) wonderfully. He drives the story when his character is called upon and plays his role with an energy that will allow you to see his characters inner glow during the softer ones. Matthew Risch plays The Man/David. I was especially impressed with Matthew’s performance. He was called upon to play multiple roles and he was so good at them all. Spot on! The acting was all wonderful and a joy to watch.

The music, Fred Lassen (Music Director/Conductor). His seven piece orchestra of Matt Belzer, Dan Sullivan, Chris Walker, Sam Woodhead, Andrew Resnick, Eric Seay and Gary Tillman were fantastic. Even without any real memorable melodies, they were a highlight of this show.

James Schuette (Scenic Design) gave a minimalist set which worked for this show as we travel through time. Kathleen Geldard (Costume Design) took us all through a middle class whirlwind of drab clothing, save her costumes for Ms. Diane Sutherland which were wonderful. Scott Zielinski’s lighting design was very well done indeed. Special moments were throughout this production and he lit them all with proper visual touches of emotion and brilliance.

All in all, it was the play’s story which didn’t work for me. Everything else about the show was very good. The singing was spot on. Not a missed note nor were they (as the judges on American Idle incorrectly say) pitchy. I was amazed and very pleased with every musical number.

Photo Gallery

Diane Sutherland and Marc Kudisch Diane Sutherland, Matthew Risch, Marc Kusdisch, and Farah Alvin
Diane Sutherland and Marc Kudisch
Diane Sutherland, Matthew Risch, Marc Kusdisch, and Farah Alvin
A scene Diane Sutherland and Tony Yazbeck
A scene
Diane Sutherland and Tony Yazbeck
A scene Matthew Risch and Tony Yazbeck
A scene
Matthew Risch and Tony Yazbeck
Jessica Molaskey and Marc Kudisch Tony Yazbeck
Jessica Molaskey and Marc Kudisch
Tony Yazbeck
Marc Kudisch, Tony Yazbeck, and Judy Kuhn A scene
Marc Kudisch, Tony Yazbeck, and Judy Kuhn
A scene

Photos by Scott Suchman.

Cast

  • Edie, the mother: Diane Sutherland
  • Sydney, the father: Marc Kudisch
  • Myrna, the oldest sister: Jessica Molaskey
  • Theresa, the middle sister: Judy Kuhn
  • Ginnie, the youngest sister: Farah Alvin
  • Andrew, the son: Tony Yazbeck
  • The Man/David: Matthew Risch
  • Understudies
  • Edie: Amy Conley; Sydney: Bob McDonald; Myrna/Ginnie: Hannah Willman; Theresa: Stephanie L. Bonte-Lebair; Andrew: Nick Lehan; The Man/David: Mike Berry

Musicians

  • Conductor: Fred Lassen
  • Reed 1: Matt Belzer
  • Reed 2: Dan Sullivan
  • Trumpet: Chris Walker
  • Trombone: Sam Woodhead
  • Piano: Andrew Resnick
  • Bass Eric Seay
  • Drums: Gary Tilman

Crew

  • Director: Tina Landau
  • Scenic Design: James Schuette
  • Costume Design: Kathleen Geldard
  • Lighting Design: Scott Zielinski
  • Sound Design: Matt Rowe
  • Production Stage Manager: Kerry Epstein
  • Assistant Stage Manager: Karen Currie
  • Production Manager: Timothy O’Connell
  • Orchestrations: Bruce Coughlin
  • Music Direction By: Fred Lassen
  • Choreography: Tina Landau and the company

Disclaimer: Signature Theatre provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.

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has been involved in theatre for over 40 years in the local Washington DC Metro area as well as NYC and London England. Mark has performed at the Dramatist Guild Theatre on Broadway, at The Dorothy Strelsin Theatre Off-Broadway. His credits include work in many local theatres as well: The Folger Theatre Group, Arena Stage, New Playwrights Theatre, 7th Street Players, The Keegan Theatre, The American Century Theatre, The Journeyman Theatre, ASTA Theatre, The Hayloft Dinner Theatre (Associate Producer), The Lazy Susan Theatre, Discovery Channels, "Mary Shelley's Frankenstein" (Frankenstein) with Donald Sutherland. London, England credits include work at: The Duke of York Theatre, Roundhouse Theatre, The Questors Theatre, The British Embassy Players. Mark is a graduate of The Drama Studio, London, England. Mark is also a narrator of audio books for Gildan Audio: “True North”, by Bill George; “Never Give Up”, by Tedy Bruschi and “Five Minds for the Future”, by Howard Gardner among them. Mark currently teaches Advanced Acting at The Little Theatre of Alexandria and still performs locally in many theatres.

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