“For the Tree to Drop” at PICT Classic | Program Notes

“For the Tree to Drop” at PICT Classic

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Four performances remain of this striking premiere of a work by local playwright Lissa Brennan.

Linda Haston (left) and Siovhan Christensen in "For the Tree to Drop" - PHOTO COURTESY OF SUELLEN FITZSIMMONS
  • Photo courtesy of Suellen Fitzsimmons
  • Linda Haston (left) and Siovhan Christensen in "For the Tree to Drop"
It’s an interesting selection for PICT to launch its first-ever Downtown performance series: Inspired by Antigone, For the Tree to Drop finds common ground between Greek tragedy, psychodrama and experimental theater.

Like Antigone, the play depicts a woman who in the face of opposition by the authorities and her community insists on her right to bury her dead brother’s body. Brennan sets the action on a plantation in the pre-Emancipation South. But costumes aside, this doesn’t pretend to be an historical drama.

For instance, though Estella, the sister, is a slave (as was her lynched brother), she converses and disputes with plantation owner Edgar in a candid manner that – in any other historical or even fictional rendering – would surely get her whipped. The fact of Edgar’s “ownership” prevents them from being equals, and of course anchors the play’s power dynamic. Yet Brennan’s portrayal feels like an almost expressionistic way of insisting on the pair’s equality as humans. It's weirdly charged and quite effective.

The play lacks conventional narrative motion, and often feels more like a dream: a single moment stretched out for exploration, with a week or more of narrative time played out in one continuous scene, with night and day only mentioned, never portrayed. That impression is abetted by the fact that while all five actors are on stage for the whole show, at any given moment most of them neither speaks nor moves.

The production, directed by PICT’s Alan Stanford, features fine performances by the cast, led by relative newcomer Siovhan Christensen, as Estella, and PICT veteran David Whalen, as Edgar.

Still, the show’s biggest strengths just might be Brennan’s vivid, poetic dialogue and the play’s powerful portrait of resistance to injustice. (Full disclosure: Brennan’s a frequent contributor to CP’s visual-arts coverage.)

Here’s Colette Newby’s review of For the Tree to Drop for CP.

The show is staged in the Peirce Studio, the nicely turned-out basement space at the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust's Trust Arts Education Center, at 805 Liberty Ave.

Tickets are $48 and available here.

One of the four remaining shows is tonight. Performances tomorrow and Saturday are sold out. However, standing-room tickets for those two are available at half-price – not a bad deal on a show that runs just 70 intermissionless minutes.


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