Ann Arbor Civic Theatre presents the searing contemporary drama “The Syringa Tree,” directed by Alex Bisker, May 7-10 at The University of Michigan’s Arthur Miller Theatre. Performances are at 2 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday.
“The Syringa Tree” is a haunting, lyrical play about family and relationships in South Africa during the era of Apartheid and beyond. Based on playwright Pamela Gien’s experiences growing up in South Africa, “The Syringa Tree” follows the life of a young white girl, Elizabeth, her family, and the servants who are part of their lives. Elizabeth is devoted to her black nanny, Salamina. When Salamina becomes pregnant, she must hide her pregnancy and subsequently her child, Moliseng, because only black people with government-issued passes may stay in a white neighborhood. Elizabeth and Moliseng become playmates, but the situation unravels when Moliseng becomes ill and her existence becomes known. As a young adult, Elizabeth flees South Africa to the U.S. and witnesses the violence, political upheaval, and ultimately the end of Apartheid from her new home in America.
“At first, I was afraid that tackling a show about Apartheid would be too daunting,” said director Alex Bisker in a press release. “How do you distill such a complex subject, spanning so many decades and regimes, into an hour-long play? Fortunately, Gien’s personable and rich characters insured that the true star of the show is not the horrible system of oppression, but the spirit of the people who endured.”
“The Syringa Tree” includes many A2CT newcomers and Civic veterans playing multiple characters. The cast features Sarah Combs as Elizabeth, Angelica Morton as Salamina, Tiffany Williams as Moliseng/Iris, Mary Kowalski as Elizabeth’s mother Eugenie and Mark Batell as Elizabeth’s father, Issac. Playing multiple roles are Sha James Beamon, Eliana Piper, Gordon Barnett, Ed Koster, Davis Wedmayer and Lyn Davidge.
Tickets are $18 for adults, $15 for seniors, $10 for students and $13 for all tickets on Thursday. Tickets are available at the A2CT office at 322 W. Ann Street, by calling the office at 734-971-2228, online at http://www.a2ct.org or at the door. For more information, visit http://www.a2ct.org.