The Boston Conservatory’s production of ‘The Apple Tree’ combines three unrelated tales into one sho
Theater Review | 3 out of 5 stars
Published: Friday, April 27, 2012
Updated: Friday, April 27, 2012 10:04
In theatre, an “acid test” is conducted immediately following a performance. Without notes or any kind of documentation, the audience members close their eyes. The image they see is the result of their test, the most memorable moment in the performance.
An acid test of the Boston Conservatory’s rendition of “The Apple Tree” yields the first man on earth tending to a garden in honor of the first woman. The image is sweet, complex, and one of the play’s finest moments. Unfortunately, these moments are few and far between in this particular performance. Another scene brings to mind an image of the snake from The Garden of Eden, portrayed as a dapper, effeminate man in a suit wooing Eve to take a fruit from the forbidden apple tree. While “The Apple Tree” has many shining moments, much of it appears over the top and contrived.
The play consists of three short vignettes, backed by a score from the well-known composers of “Fiddler on the Roof” (1964) and “She Loves Me” (1963). The first is the familiar tale of Adam and Eve, based on Mark Twain’s satirical essay “Extracts from Adam’s Diary” (1904). The second, titled “The Lady or the Tiger?”(1882), is set in a fictional kingdom in a far-away land, and addresses the strengths and shortcomings of a princess’s love affair with a warrior. Finally, “Passionella”(1957) is a modern take on the traditional Cinderella story, set in the movie industry in the 1950s.
The title story is undoubtedly the best of the collection, and the ever-present score carries much of the show. However, the music is not the unifying factor that the director’s note claims it is. Instead, the three shows are jarringly different from one another. On their own, they are certainly vibrant, interesting theatre, but together, they seem forced. The talented actors and singers add their own flavor to the production. They do what they can with the script, but parts of the script are too showy or cheesy for their subject matter.
“Adam and Eve” is sweet, witty, and well done. It expands the bible story to an hour’s length and gives Adam and Eve distinct, if stereotypical, personalities. Adam is lazy and funny in his own way. He is content with enjoying the garden’s paradise. Eve, on the other hand, is eager to learn and explore. The two bicker, reflect, and sing their way through the garden’s discoveries. They both have big personalities and make the play’s jokes seem either very cute or very funny. The snake, one of the funniest, most attention-grabbing, and best-acted parts in the play, tricks her into trying the fruit from the tree. Adam and Eve initially blame each other for the mishap, but grow into friends and eventually fall in love. The play takes them through adulthood, children, and old age, and ends with Eve’s death and Adam’s tending of her flowers.
Then, however, the play is swept up into “The Lady or the Tiger.” While still well acted, the play fails to truly go anywhere. At about half an hour, it is too short to be the epic tale that it is set up to be. It is also too substantial to be funny or too funny to be substantial. Apart from a creative rendition of the aforementioned tiger, there are few unique characteristics of the vignette. There is just enough character development in Barbara to make us wish there was some in the rest of the play. However, the score is diverse and the singing is very well done. The music in this play is, after all, what carries it and makes it memorable. The orchestra, seated directly behind the actors, lends the show power and drive.
Overall, the cast and director of “The Apple Tree” bring the play to life wonderfully. However, the play’s shortcomings in plot and humor are often difficult to recover from.