Review: The Syringa Tree at IRT 

***1/2
click to enlarge Jennifer Johansen in The Syringa Tree. - ZACH ROSING

Jennifer Johansen shines in her debut in Indiana Repertory Theatre's Going Solo monologue series, proving a capable storyteller with powerful acting chops. Playwright Pamela Gien's story of Apartheid-torn South Africa focuses on an innocent central character, Lizzie, a young, white South African girl of privilege.

Johansen beautifully rises to dialect challenges, shaping setting and character without distraction. She's adorably poignant as young Lizzie, but also finds wisdom and maturity in adult Lizzie. She also ably incarnates a range of other characters, from her native South African nurse maid to her liberal, educated father.

Though her pacing and energy seemed to lag toward the end of the reviewed show, Johansen still delivered a moving performance. A powerful final image chosen by director Fontaine Syer leaves a lasting emotional impression as we are left to think about global race relations. Through Oct. 13 at Indiana Repertory Theatre

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