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An Oak Tree

Tim Crouch in An Oak Tree. Photo: Greg Veit
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Now in its 10th year, Tim Crouch’s An Oak Tree has toured the world and won an Obie for its performances Off-Broadway. Last seen on these shores at the Soho, the story explores how two people process their grief.

Crouch plays a stage hypnotist who has killed a young girl in a car accident, while a second actor plays the father of the victim. Struggling to deal with this immense trauma in his life, the father has transformed a tree next to where she died into his daughter.

Crouch’s touching drama remains a deeply moving piece that addresses the complexities of the grieving process in a frank and engaging manner. His patter as the stage hypnotist is slick but tempered with moments of repetition and verbal ticks that hint of a performer slightly off his stride. What makes Crouch’s drama stand out, however, is that the role of the father is performed by a different actor at every performance.

In this instance, Naomi Wirthner steps into the role and through a mixture of whispered directions, sight-reading and headphone messages plays out the father’s anguish at the death of his daughter. Wirthner handles the sight-reading with dignity and acquits herself well in the more drawn-out pieces of text, although there is an understandable reticence at letting go emotionally with a script you have never seen.

Ultimately it remains a distinctly unsatisfying and vaguely schizophrenic experience and while Wirthner rallies to the form, the drama and emotion are invariably overpowered by the method.

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A theatrical gimmick that hampers the emotional integrity of an otherwise moving drama