By David Walters
“I’ve felt a great sliding in the world. Like we’re all sliding off this planet into somewhere… dark and ugly and dead. It seems a little bit like it’s all on autopilot. Like God is off… somewhere… else…And so when I read about you two, it seemed to me like God might have returned.” Saul the Rabbi who came by bus from Cleveland
The known world has changed, and you must adapt. You know you can’t adapt alone and so accept the help that arrives: old lovers, fickle friends, your grandmother who only speaks Polish, the man in the bush, a mall developer, a rabbi who arrives on a bus, and other curiosity seekers.
Siblings Shelia and David find that their feet have become rooted in the ground, and they can no longer move about. In order to save them from being ticketed, as they are in a public park in Connecticut, they are designated as trees. A loose family forms around them to offer comfort, sustenance, and seek guidance out of their own sense of loss.
The set (by Parker Lutz) is all white and a bit of a struggle for the actors. It consists of levels that curve through the space and at least a dozen columns that reach the rafters. The sibling’s feet are rooted to two round circular lifts that move up and down throughout the play, and lights and smoke are used to signify the passage of time, a change of mood, and a burning house. The costumes (by Enver Chakartash) are wonderfully colorful, descriptive of character, and fun.
This was one of those plays where there was occasional group laughter, but I was most struck by the frequent individual laughter that popped up throughout the house expressing a private connection with something on stage that triggered only them. This is always an indication that everyone seeing the same event will see it in their own way. The same play, but totally different reactions, interpretations, and experiences.
This kind of play doesn’t get done very often, a non-musical with 12 actors, and a script with esoteric meanings that the play brings forward of rebellion, self-awareness, powerlessness, companionship, family, capitalism, self-sacrifice, love, sexuality, and art that are prioritized and addressed differently in all of us. I do urge you to go see this imaginative play as you will be evaluating what you saw long after, but don’t be surprised that the person you go with who sat beside you walks out having seen a totally different show. There is power in these different interpretations.
The world premiere of Agnes Borinsky’s The Trees, presented by Playwrights Horizons and Page 73, directed by Tina Satter and running through March 19 and performed in Playwrights Horizons’ Mainstage Theater (416 W. 42nd Street).
The cast: Jess Barbagallo, Marcia DeBonis, Crystal Dickinson, Sean Donovan, Xander Fenyes, Nile Harris, Max Gordon Moore, Pauli Pontrelli, Ray Anthony Thomas, Danusia Trevino, Sam Breslin Wright, and Becky Yamamoto.
The creative team: Parker Lutz (Scenic Designer), Enver Chakartash (Costume Designer), Thomas Dunn (Lighting Designer), Tei Blow (Sound Designer), Amanda Villalobos (Puppet Designer), Randi Rivera (Production Stage Manager), and Kayla Owen (Assistant Stage Manager).
As always, this is just one person’s opinion in a world filled with them.