With so many Off-Broadway shows struggling and/or failing to stay open past New Years, one little play is not only toughing out the early winter, it seems to be building. The Syringa Tree, Pamela Gien's solo about growing up in South Africa, began performances Sept. 6, opened Sept. 14 and reaches its 100th performance Dec. 23.
In Syringa (pronounced with a hard "g"), writer-performer Pamela Gien takes on 28 roles spanning four generations of South Africa, from apartheid to freedom. The play, which premiered at Seattle's A Contemporary Theatre Feb. 18, 1999, underwent some revisions before its open-ended run at Off-Broadway's Playhouse 91. Matt Salinger is producing.
Larry Moss stays on as director from the ACT production and is aided by a team of designers that include Kenneth Foy on sets, William Ivey Long on costumes, Jason Kantrowitz on lights, and Tony Suraci on sound. Moss may sound familiar; he's the acting coach who helped Hilary Swank win her Academy Award for "Boys Don't Cry" and Michael Clarke Duncan's Oscar nominated performance in "The Green Mile."
According to a publicist for the show, Syringa Tree received a shot of Miracle Grow when TV talk show host (and soon-to-be-Cat in the Hat) Rosie O'Donnell attended the play and was so impressed by Gien's work she quickly drafted her as a guest the next day. Since then, box office has been building and numerous celebs have attended the production.
Performances of Syringa play at Playhouse 91 (which housed the short-lived two week run of Straight-Jacket this summer) located at 316 East 91 St. (between First and Second Ave.). For tickets call the box office at (212) 307-4100. - by David Lefkowitz and Ernio Hernandez