You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

An Oak Tree

This exploration and celebration of pure theater's power is a fascinating must-see.

With:
Hypnotist - Tim Crouch Father - Peter Gallagher

The “illusion of the first time” – that effortless sense of spontaneity to which all thesps aspire – is automatically achieved in Tim Crouch’s “An Oak Tree,” because for one of its players it really is the first time. In this Edinburgh Fest and international touring favorite, now landed at the Odyssey, author Crouch both plays and becomes an itinerant stage hypnotist, using whispered suggestions and occasional script pages to mesmerize an unrehearsed volunteer through a moody narrative of loss, guilt and shared identities. This exploration and celebration of pure theater’s power is a fascinating must-see.

By prearrangement but with almost no prior instruction, a guest thesp (the sturdily reliable Peter Gallagher on press night) is outfitted with iPod headphones and a front row seat, to be plucked onto the stage by Crouch as part of his late night pub act. We learn, when the performer does, the nature of the shared secret between our emcee and “Andy,” a suburban husband and father. And then we’re off and running, a scripted circus granted additional excitement with one actor as ringmaster and the other occupying the high wire.

It would be unfair to audiences and potential Andys alike to reveal much more about the backstory or the events as they unfold. (Men and women who know the piece are forbidden to step up to the challenge.) Suffice it to imagine spiritual father Pirandello beaming as Crouch tests the boundaries between character and character, character and actor and even spectator and text. The show offers its own critique: “What do you think of the play?” Crouch inquires. “I like it; well written,” responds…who? Author Crouch? Andy? Gallagher? You’ll be arguing such questions on the way home.

The text permits, even encourages each guest thesp to apply an individual stamp. Gallagher’s forte has always been playing reasonable fellows seeking to bring order to chaos, and so as Andy was put through a wringer, we could clearly see Gallagher sublimating his genuine emotional responses in order to make sense of the curves fate (and Crouch) were throwing him. A more flamboyant or intellectual Andy must go in a totally different direction, part of Crouch’s point on the fluid, chimerical nature of the theatrical event.

An Oak Tree” also offers first-hand evidence of theater’s cooperative spirit. Andy – not just Gallagher, but any Andy – is working hard to be real, while Crouch is working equally hard to be nurturing and supportive. (“You’re doing great, you’re doing fantastic,” he whispers.) When two actors dare to occupy a stage space together, what more could we as their spectators and judges possibly demand?

Among the names bruited about to step into the Los Angeles engagement are Jason Alexander, John Rubinstein and Kurtwood Smith.

An Oak Tree

Odyssey Theater Ensemble, Los Angeles; 99 seats; $30 top

Production: A Odyssey Theater Ensemble & Page One Productions with Marc Platt presentation of a play in one act by Tim Crouch. Directed by Crouch, Karl James and a smith. Lighting, William Adashek; sound, Peter Gill; production stage manager, Rachel Manheimer. Opened, reviewed Jan. 6, 2010. Runs through Feb. 14. Running time: 1 HR, 15 MIN.

Cast: Hypnotist - Tim Crouch Father - Peter Gallagher

More Legit

  • Until the Flood review

    Off Broadway Review: 'Until the Flood,' a Docu-Drama Set in Ferguson, Mo.

    The “illusion of the first time” – that effortless sense of spontaneity to which all thesps aspire – is automatically achieved in Tim Crouch’s “An Oak Tree,” because for one of its players it really is the first time. In this Edinburgh Fest and international touring favorite, now landed at the Odyssey, author Crouch both […]

  • Turner, Warner Bros. Launching New Movie

    Turner, Warner Bros. Launching Movie SVOD Service FilmStruck Internationally

    The “illusion of the first time” – that effortless sense of spontaneity to which all thesps aspire – is automatically achieved in Tim Crouch’s “An Oak Tree,” because for one of its players it really is the first time. In this Edinburgh Fest and international touring favorite, now landed at the Odyssey, author Crouch both […]

  • Hello, Dolly! Bette Midler

    Broadway Box Office: Bette Midler, Bruce Springsteen Help Keep Street's Spirits High

    The “illusion of the first time” – that effortless sense of spontaneity to which all thesps aspire – is automatically achieved in Tim Crouch’s “An Oak Tree,” because for one of its players it really is the first time. In this Edinburgh Fest and international touring favorite, now landed at the Odyssey, author Crouch both […]

  • Keegan-Michael Key

    Stagecraft Podcast: Why Keegan-Michael Key Craves the Green Lights

    The “illusion of the first time” – that effortless sense of spontaneity to which all thesps aspire – is automatically achieved in Tim Crouch’s “An Oak Tree,” because for one of its players it really is the first time. In this Edinburgh Fest and international touring favorite, now landed at the Odyssey, author Crouch both […]

  • RWS Entertainment Group Marquee Holland America

    RWS Entertainment Launches Theatrical Development Department (EXCLUSIVE)

    The “illusion of the first time” – that effortless sense of spontaneity to which all thesps aspire – is automatically achieved in Tim Crouch’s “An Oak Tree,” because for one of its players it really is the first time. In this Edinburgh Fest and international touring favorite, now landed at the Odyssey, author Crouch both […]

  • John Lithgow Stories By Heart

    Broadway Review: 'John Lithgow: Stories by Heart'

    The “illusion of the first time” – that effortless sense of spontaneity to which all thesps aspire – is automatically achieved in Tim Crouch’s “An Oak Tree,” because for one of its players it really is the first time. In this Edinburgh Fest and international touring favorite, now landed at the Odyssey, author Crouch both […]

  • Lin-Manuel Miranda

    Lin-Manuel Miranda to Receive Monte Cristo Award (EXCLUSIVE)

    The “illusion of the first time” – that effortless sense of spontaneity to which all thesps aspire – is automatically achieved in Tim Crouch’s “An Oak Tree,” because for one of its players it really is the first time. In this Edinburgh Fest and international touring favorite, now landed at the Odyssey, author Crouch both […]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content