Syncopation | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Syncopation, Apple Tree Theatre. Two simple souls are joined by a fantasy and the desperate hope that life is more than its everyday appearance in Allan Knee's play, set at the turn of the century. In his sixth-floor walk-up with hardwood floors and giant windows (million-dollar condo material today), meat packer Henry (Ross Lehman) nurtures dreams of dancing for royalty and advertises for a partner who shares his passion. Seamstress Anna (Ann Noble Massey) is tentative, heavy-footed, and preoccupied with wedding plans but still impresses him as a worthy partner. After some awkward initial meetings the two gradually fall into step, and following months of practice and a series of recited journal entries they reveal themselves, sharing aspirations, new perspectives, and the burgeoning courage to break rules.

This sentimental, predictable story may appeal to those who enjoy reminiscing about innocent, elegant bygone times. More jaded souls, however, may not relate to this vulnerable nebbish and repressed young lass, who thinks short hair on women is terribly outrageous. Also, while Lehman and Massey have certainly fine-tuned their characters and the production flows delicately and smoothly, the evening lacks color. The couple's stories of forbidden encounters and fascinating conversations don't fill the room with vivid images the way they should; instead these tales wilt and fade into the beige backdrop. While the characters seem to help each other hear the music and see the crystal chandeliers, they must do more to bring the audience into the dance.

--Kim Wilson

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