‘The Apple Tree’ is sweet look at life and love

By Lorraine Spencer

The New Castle Playhouse production is a series of three musical vignettes.

Sometimes it pays to give in to temptation.

On Friday night, audiences at The New Castle Playhouse were tempted to let go of their seriousness and give in to their silly sides. When they did, they were rewarded with the charming musical “The Apple Tree.”

“The Apple Tree” is a series of three musical vignettes by Jerry Bock, Sheldon Harnick and Jerome Coopersmith. Each act has its own story line, but all three are tied together by common themes of love, longing and the quest for happiness.

The first act, from Mark Twain’s “The Diary of Adam and Eve,” shows a personal and humorous side to the familiar Bible story. Adam, played by the very talented Ben Soloman, is happy being the only man in Eden and is annoyed to discover that Eve, newcomer Stacey Anderson, not only talks, but talks often and wants to spend all of her time with him. The lonely and innocent Eve turns to the snake, Playhouse regular David Dougherty, for friendship and is led to the forbidden fruit. Once they leave the garden, Adam and Eve’s relationship grows into love as they build a home and family. Although they lost paradise, they are happy to have found each other.

The second act is based on “The Lady or the Tiger?” by Frank R. Stockton. The story takes place in an ancient, barbaric kingdom ruled by King Arik, played by a silly Alex Kraner, and Princess Barbara, Anderson in her second role. The king employs a strange justice system: A person accused of a crime is put into a large arena with two doors. Behind one door is a beautiful woman; if the prisoner chooses that door, he is innocent and must marry her. Behind the other door is a tiger. If the prisoner chooses that door, he is deemed guilty and the tiger will kill him. When the Princess and her lover, Captain Sanjar, played by Soloman, are discovered, he is put to trial. The Princess, who knows which door hides the tiger, faces a dilemma: give her lover to another woman, or watch him die.

Act Three is a sort of Cinderella story, “Passionella” by Jules Feiffer. Anderson is now Ella, a chimney sweep who wants to be a movie star. Her friendly neighborhood godmother grants her wish and she becomes a gorgeous star from 7 p.m. to 4 a.m. Passionella’s success and happiness are complete when she finds famous singer Flip Charming, Soloman’s third role.

Soloman and Anderson were impressive in their ability to create three separate roles in one night. Soloman’s Adam was sweet, though stubborn. His Captain Sanjar was a strong fighter and passionate lover. In his final turn as Flip, Soloman was hilarious. Anderson’s Eve began as an innocent, trusting girl and grew into a mature, loving wife and mother. She played Princess Barbara with a steamy sexuality and tortured soul. Lastly, her Passionella was cute and fun.

Though the script of “The Apple Tree” feels a little dated, the cast manages to infuse it with energy and life. With campy choreography by Molly Galano, wild costumes and some outrageous performances by bit characters, director Paula R. Ferguson delivers a light, fun look at love and life. This “Apple” is hard to resist.

X”The Apple Tree” continues Friday, Saturday, Nov. 7 and 8 at 7:30 p.m., and today, next Sunday and Nov. 9 at 2 p.m.

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