IndyFringe: The Juniper Tree

By Wendy Carson

Playwright Timothy Taylor presents a loving insight into three generations of women and their struggles with their personal histories. Our first character, Anna (or Bubbe), is the Grandmother. Her determination to connect with her past life and traditions, ripped away from her by antisemitism throughout her beloved homeland of Ukraine. Her stories are touching and sweet, yet sad and rueful. She brings forth the story of The Juniper Tree, which can grow and thrive anywhere they are planted. She is determined to be that hardy and bear fruit no matter how harsh her environment.

In a solid counterpoint, is her daughter, Cece. We see her as a typical, hot mess of a seventies woman. She’s visiting her friend’s shrink, mostly for valium to help her deal with her stress. Although she initially exits when she can’t get what she feels she needs, she eventually comes back to the doctor’s office and we are treated to a glimpse into what made her the way she is. I was utterly surprised at the depth of her story considering how shallow she initially appears to be.

Finally, we have Rachel, Cece’s daughter who has decided that she wants to reconnect with Bubbe, who she has not seen or heard from since she was an infant. She sends a tape recorder & tapes so that she can get a true oral history for her family’s past, as well as insight into what caused the rift between her mother & grandmother in the first place.

This show is a solid look at family structures and the small choices that can ripple through a lifetime and destroy that which has been so hard fought to preserve. Susan Bennett does an admirable job fully forming the characters into believable women and not just the stereotypes that they could have easily lent themselves to becoming.

While the opening night house was only half-filled, I hope that word-of-mouth will help increase ticket sales so that the remaining performances get the larger audience this show deserves.

Performances at the Phoenix Theatre underground Aug. 22,  26 and 27. Get info and tickets at indyfringefestival.com.

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