Penguin Rep Theatre presents Allan Knee’s “Syncopation”

BY GEORGINA CASAZZA

STONY POINT – The limited engagement of Syncopation dances into Penguin Rep Theatre as a part of their 40th season lineup.

Set in 1911 New York City, Syncopation tells the story of Anna, a young Italian garment worker who secretly wants more out of her life, and Henry, a middle-aged Jewish butcher, who dreams bigger than he deems possible. This unlikely couple are teemed with poverty and possibility as they take dance lessons in a dusty sixth-floor walkup.

The two-man show is cleverly directed by Thomas Caruso, associate director of the Broadway musical Groundhog Day, and choreographed by Ryan Kasprzak, a Chita Rivera Award nominee for Bandstand.

Syncopation, a feel good show is adorned with fun and laughter by the actor duo. Lauren Annunziata, who plays Anna, is brilliant in her delivery of a sharp wit New York Italian who is cautious but curious. Annunziata is making her Penguin Rep debut with recent credits including I Know What You Are at Ensemble Studio Theatre, Perry Street at Labyrinth Theater, Hotel California at NY New Theater Festival, and First Immigrant at Williamstown Theatre Festival.

Annunziata is paired onstage seemlesly with Josh Powell, who plays Henry. Powell brings a brightness to a stage that you don’t see often. The passion he brings to Henry is overflowing, and together the two carry the entire show on their backs. Powell joins Syncopation straight from the New York premiere of the new musical The Fourth Messenger. Recent credits also include The Fantasticks at Pittsburgh Public Theater and My Way at Ivoryton Playhouse.

Henry dreams of becoming a famous ballroom dancer, and even with no formal training he rents a small, dingy room that is exactly 108 steps up from the bottom. He takes out an ad in the local newspaper looking for the perfect dance partner to practice with – someone worthy of dancing for royalty. Anna, a recently engaged seamstress, sees the ad and thinks that it is crazy, yet something draws her to that sixth-floor walk up.

Anna and Henry are by no means the perfect team, but they are incredibly drawn to each other. Through shenangigans and heartbreak the audience is shown that you should never settle for what you have in life, and always reach for what you deserve.

The small, once abandonded hay barn located in Stony Point has grown from a summer theatre to one of the Hudson Valley’s most influential nonprofit cultural institutions in New York City and beyond. Penguin Rep’s founder and artistic director, Joe Brancato, had a vision and has sucessfully brought theatergoers in over the past 40 years.

Syncopation will run through September 3rd at Penguin Rep Theatre, 7 Cricketown Road, Stony Point. Visit: http://www.penguinrep.org/ for more information.

Other crew: Lux Haac, costume design; Martin Vreeland; lighting design; William Neal, sound design; Cindi Rush, casting.