Review: City of Trees at Sunny Side Theatre Company

City of Trees

What better way to rekindle old friendships than by teaming up to save a diner?

What better way to rekindle old friendships than by teaming up to save a diner?

Photo courtesy of Ignacio Rene Lopez

Showtimes: Fri 7pm, Sat 7pm, Sun 5pm; Through 8/18; $12-$14; William J. Geery Theatre, 2130 L St.,
Rated 3.0

Sunny Side Theatre Company makes an ambitious—too ambitious, it turns out—debut with City of Trees, set here in Sacramento.

Johanna C. Pugh wrote this dramedy about old friends reuniting in an attempt to save a fading diner, while at the same time catching up on and sharing their various histories. Pugh also co-directs the play and portrays one of the main characters—Dia, the estranged daughter of diner owner Leroy Green (Stephen Walker, who turns in one of the play’s most touching performances). Dia is the product of a broken home, one with an alcoholic father and physically abusive mother. She suffers anxiety and depression and is pregnant and married to the bisexual Preston Grey (Steph Sanders).

The well-intentioned play is a bit teach-y and preachy as it considers and argues for acceptance of the various conditions of its multi-faceted and multi-ethnic characters. There are survivors of parental neglect, domestic violence, emotional abuse, alcoholism and those struggling with self-doubt and insecurities. It’s a social worker’s smorgasbord, and it’s too much.

Pugh’s goal is to offer help and encouragement to those with mental health issues and to make the topic one that’s as open to discussion as issues of physical health. There are just too many limbs for one tree—and too many troubled souls for one play, even one that pushes three-and-a-half hours.