CARE OF TREES is a clinical descent into madness

CARE OF TREES: Mystical Drama by E. Hunter Spreen, directed by Susannah Martin. Shotgun Players, The Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94703. 510-841-6500 or

May 18 - June 19, 2011

CARE OF TREES is a clinical descent into madness

Shotgun Players 2011-2012 season began with a brilliant Beardo and now has a world premiere of Care of Trees to grace their boards. Toward the very end of the play, an off-stage voice (there are many) asks, “And you left your wife all alone in the forest?” It brought to mind a line from the Lizzie Borden song from New Faces of 1952, "You can't chop your momma up in Massachusetts that kinda of thing just isn't very nice." After an opening scene of a man violently digging real dirt onstage, next to dominating stylistic spiral staircase tree (set by Nina Ball) with roots set into the stag, there is a flashback and the beginning of a love story. "The first year of our marriage, if I could've used one word to describe our life I would have chosen idyllic: our life was idyllic."

The non-linear telling of the love story is exceptional with Spreen’s dialog and the acting of Liz Sklar and Patrick Russell giving life and depth to their characters. Despite ethical differences regarding the cutting down of an ancient Oak Tree to make room for buildings, Travis and Georgia are married and the idyllic life begins. Then strange things begin to happen to Georgia and the idyllic life becomes a quagmire of medical symptoms, diagnostic tests and treatments. Spreen shifts into mystical no-man’s land, vacillating between using inner thought of his characters including breaking the fourth wall then juxtaposing present, past and virtual time frames. Sigmund Freud would have a field day with Georgia’s descent into madness.

As the metaphors pile up, the pace becomes extremely hectic as director Martin runs Sklar and Russell up and around the stairs surrounding the tree, rolls them on the floor and even sends them into wings and back again with video loops (Ian Winters) to frame the action. At the end of the two hours, with intermission, the accolades go to Liz Sklar and Patrick Russell while playwright Spreen and director Martin deserve polite applause.

Kedar K. Adour, MD

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