By Aaron Golden
Directed by M. William Panek
Produced by The Brown Paper Box Co.
At the Heartland Studio, Chicago
To Tree unfolds as a thoughtful friendship fable
Provocative two-hander, To Tree, is an allegorical tale of friendship, loyalty and acceptance. Now in a world premiere at the Heartland Studio in Rogers Park, playwright Aaron Golden’s To Tree uses a strange devise to tell his fable -Julian (a disciplined performance by Lance Newton) is so disillusioned with being human that he decides to become a tree -literally! Director M. William Panek has Julian strip to his boxers then stand at attention with his feet entangled in grass. Julian never moves his arms or legs and barely moves his head and eyes except to speak to his old college roommate, Peter (Christopher Hart).
Once Peter gets word from Julian’s “feeder” that Julian has renounced being human in favor of becoming a tree, Peter is compelled to come to rural Indiana to aid his troubled old friend and ex-college roommate. Filled with humor and zinging retorts, we slowly start to understand and even empathize with Julian’s bold decision and Peter’s total acceptance of Julian’s absurd quest.
Since bother are journalists always in search of a story, Peter ‘interviews’ Julian who eagerly wants to explain why he has chosen to become a tree. Their discussions force Peter to reexamine all his thoughts about biology, relationships, and the nature of what it is to be ‘human.’ This intelligent and empathetic 80 minute one-act drama subtly becomes believable despite its absurdist bent.
The honesty by Julian and Peter and their complete loyalty not only binds the two but is the basis of their friendship making their it pure enough to be paralleled as love, since total acceptance is the necessary for both friendship and love.
The strong, articulate and disciplined performance by Lance Newton is impressive. Christopher Hart’s nice guy and truthful take on friendship is winning. The work of these two covers for the lack of details as to how Julian can actually be transformed into a tree and Peter’s finding a cure if Julian decides to revert back. To Tree is a sly little work that creeps up and stimulates us into reexamining our meaning of life and what the essence of being human is about. How guilt can consume our lives leading us to drastic actions to ‘make things right.’ Julian sure has a unique take on morality. This moving work is worth seeing as it begs further discussion on the ride home.
Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast
Date Reviewed: January 12, 2012
Fro more info checkout the To Tree page on Theatreinchicago.com
At the Heartland Studio, 7016 N. Glenwood, Chicago, IL, tickets $15- $20 (Industry $10), www.brownpapertickets.com, Thursdays thru Saturdays at 8 pm, Sundays at 3 pm, running time is 80 minutes without intermission, through January 29, 2012