Raven Theatre SYCAMORE Review – Troubled Families Try to Grow

Your neighbor down the street is mowing his lawn. The two boys next door still use your shed for their clubhouse. Everyone waves to each other as they pass by. Seems like a picture perfect neighborhood, right? Sure everyone is nice enough on the outside, but for two families in SYCAMORE, everything isn’t exactly what it seems if you take a closer look.

Raven Theatre’s SYCAMORE Takes a Peek Inside Private Lives

Looking in on the Jacobs family from the outside, they appear to be the “perfect” suburban family. A mother and father with their two kids living happily in their home with a perfect tomato garden in the back.

Thanks to a barebones set design by Jeffrey D. Kmiec, we are able to look more closely at this family. Without the walls of the houses in the way, we are able to see what happens behind closed doors.

There is tension in this family due to a backstory we learn early on. This tension is palpable, and perhaps especially so because these characters are trying not to show their true feelings.. When a new neighbor moves in next door, John, Henry and Celia both take interest in him.

Raven Theatre SYCAMORE
Julian Larach, Tom Hickey, Robyn Coffin, Jaslene Gonzalez Photo: Dean La Prairie

It becomes a love triangle as John is more interested in Celia, Celia doesn’t want to hurt Henry, and Henry wonders if he looked more like Celia, maybe John might like him back.

They aren’t able to keep their emotions tucked away forever though. It all comes bursting out during a family dinner and the whole family says what they’ve been wanting to. Though the ending is far from tying everything up with a nice neat bow, perhaps this outpouring of emotions is what the family needs in order to start healing.

Raven Theatre SYCAMORE
The cast of Sycamore at dinner Photos: Dean La Prairie
Raven Theatre SYCAMORE
Julian Larach, Selina Fillinger Photos: Dean La Prairie

Teenage Angst and Trying to Escape

SYCAMORE shows us this love triangle and the complications of romantic feelings mixed with teenage angst. It makes it that much more complicated for these three teens to figure out who they are.

Henry, played by Julian Larach, struggles as he tries to figure out why he feels so much better in Celia’s clothes.

Celia, played by Selina Fillinger, is just trying to make it through her senior year and escape to college.

And John, played by Johnathan Nieves, is trying to find the balance between being a teenager and worrying about his single mom.

The cast pulls us into their worlds and they do an excellent job pacing out the drama of this seventy-five minute show. The two mothers played by Jaslene Gonzalez and Robyn Coffin have wonderful moments together when they bond over common motherhood experiences. Larach and Fillinger play Henry and Celia with a natural sibling rivalry. For the most part the cast fell into their respective characters quite naturally. For this writer, however, there were a few moments where the acting felt a bit stiff.

Raven Theatre SYCAMORE
Robyn Coffin, Jaslene Gonzalez Photo: Dean La Prairie
Raven Theatre SYCAMORE
Jaslene Gonzalez, Robyn Coffin Photo: Dean La Prairie
Raven Theatre SYCAMORE
Julian Larach, Selina Fillinger Photo: Dean La Prairie
Raven Theatre SYCAMORE
Tom Hickey, Selina Fillinger Photo: Dean La Prairie

SYCAMORE is a brief moment in these two families’ lives. We get to know them and feel invested in seeing how they can move forward in the future. This is a play full of tender moments. We come to care about these characters. We feel their hurt feelings and we are rapt in this tale of how they are exploring sexuality and friendship with each other.


Note: This is now added to the Picture this Post round up of BEST PLAYS IN CHICAGO. Click here to read — Top Picks for Theater in Chicago NOW – Chicago Plays PICTURE THIS POST Loves.


Note: An excerpt of this review appears in Theatre in Chicago.


Now through April 29th
Thursdays and Fridays at 8:00 p.m.
Saturdays at 3:30pm and 8:00pm
Sundays at 3:30 p.m.


The Raven Theatre
6157 N. Clark Street
Chicago, IL 60660



Tickets may be purchased at the Raven Theatre’s website or by phone at 773-338-2177


Dean La Prairie

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