Theatre Review: STC's "The Syringa Tree"

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(Sacramento, CA)
Monday, March 21, 2005

The new production at the Sacramento Theatre Company is all about apartheid, and how the policy of racial separation affected South Africa’s wealthy white establishment, as well as the poor blacks who did society’s grunt work. It’s basically a one-woman show, featuring actress Saffron Henke. But don’t get the idea that it’s pure monologue. Henke plays two dozen characters over a span of 25 years, male and female, black, and white, children and old folks. It starts with this perky six-year-old, who explains how to tell if you’ve got good luck.

(Excerpt from play)

The story expands from there into emotionally-charged scenes ranging from childbirth to race riots and shooting in the streets. The play is only 90 minutes long, but it’s a powerful, complex journey through life, with scenes of joy and terror.

Henke gives an amazing, non-stop performance, rising to the challenge of the material again and again, shifting convincing from  one character to another. There’s live music by Sifiso Majola. This show is also the best effort in years from director Peggy Shannon, who connects with the story at a deep level. “The Syringa Tree” plays at the Sacramento Theatre Company through April 10th. Jeff Hudson, KXJZ News.