Dreams in ‘Summertree’ flow

    By Cathy Neiman/Staff Writer

    In the opening act of “Summertree,” a 19-year-old man is daydreaming under his favorite tree in his back yard. As the play moves forward, it becomes quite apparent that he might be dreaming that he is daydreaming under his favorite tree, in order to forget where he really is.

    Ron Cowen, who has written “Queer As Folk” for ShowTime and “Sisters,” an award-winning drama that ran for six seasons on NBC, wrote “Summertree.” Cowen and his partner Dan Lipman, won an Emmy for the teleplay, “An Early Frost,” which is about the havoc AIDS has wreaked on an American family.

    “Summertree,” nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in the 1960s, was Cowen’s first play, about the effects the Vietnam War had on an American family (a running theme for Cowen). It first showed in Lincoln Center, New York starring Bylthe Danner in 1968. Danner attended the show last weekend.

    The central character is a sensitive young man, who wants nothing more than to go to music school, yet his overbearing father will not let him go. A possessive mother, a wishy-washy girlfriend, a hardened father, a tough solider and a little boy, who is the mirror of him when he was a child, surround the young man. His father’s and his own pride, results in the young man being drafted to the war in Vietnam, and never returning home.

    The production of “Summertree” was slightly altered from the original, with Cowen’s blessing, (Cowen participated in the rehearsals and collaborated with the director) from a three-act play, into a two-act play.

    The play is all in the mind of the young man. His mind drifts to the past to the future to the present, just like we all do in real life. The costumes and sets were very minimal-there were no costume changes-which worked very well because of the extraordinary acting job of the entire cast.

    Mitch Morris, who played the young man, was superb; he was able to flow through the different time lines and scenes with great ease. The young man’s father, played by Jamie McMurray, (who is also the co-artistic director for the Rose Alley Theater) was outstanding as well. The charisma that Morris and McMurray had in scenes together was extremely moving and intense.

    “Summertree” is an intense, poignant and moving play, which brought tears to most of the audience’s eyes. It is extremely well acted and meritoriously directed, and prevalent to today’s times.

    “Summertree” is showing at The Rose Alley Theater, 318 Lincoln Blvd. in Venice, Calif. through June 14. For reservations and information call 323.650.3013.