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MTG stages enjoyable but amateurish Apple Tree

The Apple Tree
MIT Musical Theatre Guild.
Written by Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick.
Directed by Sherry A. Ipri '93.
Starring Sean White '96, Cathy Conley '96,
Nina Irani '96, Jose Ortiz '92,
and Sarah Masiulewicz '96.
Kresge Little Theater.
April 2, 3, 4, 8, 9, 16, and 17.
8 p.m.

By Joshua M. Andresen
Staff Reporter

MTG's latest production, The Apple Tree, is an intelligent and amusing comedy that will keep the audience's attention. The acting and singing, however, vary from excellent to mediocre in a cast that primarily stars freshmen.

The musical is in three acts, each with a different cast and setting. The first is the story of Adam and Eve from their first meeting in the Garden of Eden to the death of Eve. The second is entitled The Lady or the Tiger and the third is a takeoff on the story of Cinderella. The last two are structured to parallel the story of Adam and Eve, and rather intriguing similarities can be found in all three, forming a sort of theme and variations. All three have an Adam figure, an Eve figure, a Snake figure, and a conflict involving leaving a paradise of some sort. There are numerous subtler allusions to the first story as well. Pay attention to the first act to catch all the later, wryly humorous references to the story of Adam and Eve.

The three plots of The Apple Tree prove to be the best part of the musical itself, as the music is somewhat disappointing as standard musical fare goes. While very interesting and completely adequate, none of the melodies are particularly grabbing. The melodies are full of interesting intervals, and do not flow so well on their own.

The first act forms the theme and gives an interesting version of the Adam and Eve story, where the first man and woman initially do not get along so well, only eventually learning to live with and even need each other. While Sean White '96 does an adequate job in his singing role, Cathy Conley '96 struggles at times. Her voice has a wonderful vibrato, but appears unrefined as she has difficulty maintaining pitch and blending with the pit orchestra. The acting of the duo is also only fair at best as White is somewhat stiff and Conley a bit too enthusiastic.

The highlight of the first act is Carson Schutze G, who plays the Snake. His number is well sung (aside from the minor directional point that he sings at Eve rather than the audience), and he has a wonderfully eerie stage presence. The Snake represents knowledge in this musical, and in one scene the audience wonders whether the Snake went to MIT, as he gives a very amusing technical explanation to Eve, who puzzles about her reflection in a pool.

The second act is set in the first century A.D. in a kingdom with an interesting form of justice. Each defendant is subjected to a "fair trial" in which he chooses between two identical doors. One of these doors hides a tiger, the other hides a maiden. The defendant proves his guilt if the tiger is chosen and he is immediately devoured. On the other hand, the defendant can prove his innocence by choosing the maiden. Upon doing the latter, he is immediately married to the maiden. The conflict arises as a princess' (Nina Irani '96) forbidden lover is subjected to one of the "fair trials," ending in a climactic surprise.

The acting and singing in this act is much more solid than in the first. Jose Ortiz '92 gives a wonderful performance as the balladeer, accompanying himself on guitar. He has a melodious singing voice and delivers his spoken lines skillfully as well. Irani also gives an amazing performance as the princess.

The third act is entitled Passionella, about a chimney sweep who turns into a glamorous movie star by night. Sarah Masiulewicz '96 plays this lead, and does a very nice job. When she sings as the chimney sweep, she adopts a very nasal tone that is as funny as it is annoying. The numbers sung by her alter ego are very strong, but Masiulewicz's voice lacks the sultry vibrato that would fit this role better. On the whole, though, her acting and singing are quite excellent.

The pit orchestra struggles with intonation throughout the performance. It is adequate for the accompanying role it plays, but for overtures and scene changes when the orchestra is highlighted, the bad intonation comes through clearly. Fortunately, this is not distracting for the majority of the performance.

The Apple Tree concludes that though Eden-type scenarios are nice, they are not often desirable. While not necessarily profound, the musical is very entertaining for both its plot and its music. MTG will offer four more performances over the next two weekends.