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Theatre Review (LA): The Apple Tree at The Crown City Theatre

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Three cheers to Crown City Theatre for bringing The Apple Tree, the fun tuner by Bock and Harnick, to Los Angeles. It played on Broadway back in 1966, starring Barbara Harris (legendary for her natural comic ability and for always quitting show business after “one more show”). No one has tried to duplicate her success until last year, when the amazing Kristin Chenoweth tackled the role. The show had a limited run but was a success.

Crown City Theatre has solved this dilemma by casting three different actresses in the three sections as well as three different leading men. They also assigned the sections to three different directors.

The first section is called the “Diary of Adam and Eve.” Based on a short story by Mark Twain, its dialogue is (not surprisingly) hilarious. It recounts Adam and Eve’s life together pre- and post-Garden of Eden. Twain’s take is funny because it plays with some commonly held beliefs about men and women and about their relationships. Adam is not as smart, doesn’t like to talk, doesn’t seem to know how to name the animals, is hardworking and devoted to Eve. Eve is clever, a bit naughty (eats that apple, dammit) and is good at interior design.

The piece takes a bittersweet turn at the end when Eve passes away and Adam is left to water her flowers. It is very touching and moving. The actor who plays Adam (Broadway actor Matthew J. Williamson) brings a strong masculinity and comic awareness to the role. Morgan Landers, a delightful newcomer to LA, plays Eve. She even sounds a bit like Barbara Harris. Artistic Director Gary Lamb does a nice job with the piece.

The second act recounts the tale of “The Lady And The Tiger.” Written by Frank R. Stockman, it is the lamest of the three stories. The direction is not very clear, but Kit Pacquin makes a nice Princess. Josh Helmuth, who plays Captain Sanjor, seems unsure of himself as a singer, but I think with some encouragement he could find his voice.

The third story comes to us from Jules Feiffer. “Passionella” is the story of a chimney sweep turned buxom movie star who finds that life on top isn’t all its cut out to be. Stephanie Fredricks is terrific as the forlorn lass; Ben Rover plays her boyfriend Flip. This comic piece is well directed by Matthew J. Williamson (Adam of the first act).

The Apple Tree plays at the Crown City Theatre with no announced closing date.

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